“I lived when others didn’t,” Moore tornado survivor still healing after 5 years

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MOORE, Okla. - Sunday is May 20. That was a dark day in Oklahoma in 2013.

Twenty four people lost their lives in the Moore tornado. One-hundred fifty people were hospitalized with injuries.

Edith Morales suffered the most serious injuries of all the survivors who were hurt that day. She took cover inside the 7-11 at 4th and Telephone Road.

We now know storm data shows the tornado actually made a loop on top of the 7-11 that afternoon, which explains why the death toll in that one small building was three people and the injuries were so severe.

On Monday afternoon, May 20, 2013, Morales ran into the bathroom at 7-11 to take cover. She was pulled out of the rubble pile unconscious and paralyzed.

Her spine had been crushed from the front and from the back. Every bone in her face was broken.

Morales was rescued by strangers, rushed to the hospital, hooked up to a ventilator - teetering between life and death for weeks.

News 4's Ali Meyer first met Morales 50 days after the tornado, still in ICU at Integris Southwest Hospital. News 4 cameras were there as her daughter heard her voice for the first time.

Her wounds were so severe, surgeons sewed her hand into her abdomen to heal.

A month later, Morales graduated to a rehab center but her arm was still in danger of amputation.

One-hundred-twenty-five days after the tornado, she got to go home.

On the one-year anniversary of the Moore tornado, Morales met up with her rescuers to say thank you for all they'd done for her and for so many others that day.

Four years on, and she is still settling into her own survival. The loss of those who'd huddled with her that day still haunts her.

"I lived when others didn't, and that's why I try to stay happy about being here," Morales said. "It's been a hard road. I am very grateful that I'm here because I have felt very close to thinking is this going to be it? And, I'm not ready."

Morales has no feeling below her waist. Her hand is deformed, but she didn't lose it.

She has made more progress than doctors ever expected.

"She amazed everybody as fast as she did recover and being able to continue to make progress," said Morales' daughter, Christina Shaw.

She has nightmares and headaches. Pieces of debris are still lodged in her skull.

"They said everything looks good on my brain, but they could still see some debris," Morales said. "I can literally feel it when I touch my head in places."

The last of her wounds healed up a few months ago.

Morales moved in with her daughter's family - a grandmother's dream come true because from the very beginning Morales had just one wish.

"I want to see and watch my grandkids play," she said in ICU in 2013. "I hope I can run with them someday."

Two more grandsons have come along since the tornado. There's a grand-daughter on the way soon.

For Morales, every day brings new challenges and new joy.

For her, life is a reminder her body was broken. Her spirit was not.

A gofundme has been set up to help with Morales' medical expenses.

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