GRAPHIC: Tornado victim still in ICU following Moore tornado
MOORE, Okla. – As the storm churned southwest of Moore, Edith Morales made plans to leave work early. Her boss at the storage facility on SW 4th Street in Moore told her to lock up and get out. She helped one last customer instead.
Morales tried to outrun the EF-5. She took cover inside the 7/11 with several others, and she called her daughter, Christina Morales.
Christina Morales remembers talking to her mom on cell phone as the storm approached, and then the phone line went dead.
In the storm’s wake, Christina ran more than a mile to the 7/11 to search for her mother.
When she arrived, volunteers were still digging for survivors.
They found bodies instead.
Terri Long, 49, Megan Futrell, 29, and Megan’s infant son, Case Futrell, all died while taking cover in the cooler at 7/11.
Christina remembers when she first arrived, “I looked around and thought, there’s no way she’s ok.”
Working in the the shadow of Moore Medical Center was chaos.
Authorities told Christina there were no survivors at the convenience store. ”I said my mom was here. She was in the cooler. I was on the phone with her. Were there any survivors? And he said, ‘No. There were no survivors.’ I said, ‘OK. Are you sure?’ He said, ‘No. No. The only people we pulled out of here were not alive.’”
Firefighters had recovered several bodies by the time Christina arrived at 7/11.
She was asked to identify her mom, from a picture. She wasn’t sure she could.
“At that point, I couldn’t not know anymore. I couldn’t know. I didn’t want to see. At the same time I didn’t think I had enough strength in me to run. And so I looked at the picture, and I couldn’t tell. I couldn’t tell if it was her, and I couldn’t tell that it wasn’t her.” said Morales.
Turns out, Christina’s mother, Edith Morales had been pulled from the 7/11 before her daughter’s arrival.
She was alive.
Rescued by strangers, rushed to INTEGRIS Southwest Medical Center, it took her family hours to figure out where she was.
“I tell you what. Someone up there has had their hand on my sister I know the whole time. It’s got to be a God thing.” said Edith’s sister Janet Rudolph.
Edy Morales’ body had been battered by the tornado.
Her injuries were critical: a severed spinal cord, splintered vertebrae, collapsed right lung, crushed bones in her right and left hand and face, broken ribs and shoulder blades.
Edith Morales was paralyzed; doctors say she will never walk again.
Surgeons at INTEGRIS stitched Edith back together.
Machines helped her breathe, but e coli bacteria was destroying her healthy tissue.
Infection was taking over.
Three days in, she flat-lined.
“Everybody came up, and we just gathered around here, and we prayed. We said it’s gonna be fine. Don’t worry. We’re going to get through this. Just keep on fighting.” said Christina.
They prayed, and Edith started heal.
She fought her way back from death’s door.
“Her life has been changed forever, and so has ours. We just want everybody to remember her.” said Christina.
It has been a difficult and quiet battle in the ICU.
Because of damage to her lungs, Edy has been on a ventilator the entire time, 50 days unable to speak.
Christina Morales last heard her mom’s voice May 20th, during that frantic cell phone call from 7/11.
Edith is re-discovering her voice now, and remembering moments she has wished to erase.
“It was bad. The wind was, it was screaming. After that I don’t remember much.” Edith said.
She has no recollection of her rescue.
She told her daughter over the phone that she was in the cooler, but she now believes she may have been in the bathroom of 7/11 with at least one other person who is believed to have survived the storm.
Edith had no idea until very recently, that some of the others who had huddled with her in that 7/11 convenience store, did not make it out alive.
She remembers their faces.
“I’m sorry they didn’t make it. I’m surprised I did. There’s been times I didn’t think I was going to make it.” Edith said.
The weight of her own survival is crushing.
INTEGRIS surgeons have sewed Edy’s hand into her abdomen; it’s a work-around so skin can grow to cover her hand.
They will separate it later, if it works.
She credits God with her survival.
Her family has a long list of thank-yous, including all the nurses and doctors and surgeons who have worked with Edith in the ICU, and attorney Alex Yaffe along with his firm for volunteering help with legal paperwork after the tornado.
Edith is anxious for progress. She is still paralyzed.
Hand-scribbled get-wells are a constant reminder of who is waiting at home: three granddaughters and a grandson due next month.
“I hope I can run with them.” Edith said.
Before she can go home though, she will need long-term care.
It is another huge challenge for Edy because she doesn’t have medical insurance.
“She is fighting with everything she has. We’re just at a point where we’re fighting to get a different level of care that we’re fighting to be able to get for her.” said Christina.
Edith’s doctors say she’ll be able to move to a long-term care facility soon.
The problem is Edy’s family hasn’t been able to find a facility willing to take her because she doesn’t have medical coverage.
And so, it seems, her hospital stay might continue indefinitely.
Edith and her family are faithful; they are hopeful she will get the help she needs to continue her recovery because she has made it so far already.
From the bottom of that pile of debris at SW 4th and Telephone Road in Moore, to the medical sanctuary of intensive care at INTEGRIS Southwest Medical Center, it has been quite a journey for Edith Morales.
She lies in her hospital bed paralyzed, struggling to breathe still, broken and yet blessed.
Edith is grateful, reminded every day that she is a survivor.
The Morales family has set up a contribution account at BancFirst. Mail checks to:
Donations for Edith Morales
PO Box 26788
Oklahoma City, OK 73126
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