Edith Morales' broken and battered body continues to heal 70 days after she took shelter in a Moore 7-Eleven from the deadly May 20 tornado.
She remains in the hospital knowing her life has changed forever. The furious storm left her paralyzed, her head crushed and skin ripped from her left arm that was sewn to her stomach until Wednesday. Her road of recovery will be a long one.
Three others with Morales at the 7-Eleven that afternoon died. Bodies of Terri Long, 49, and Megan Futrell, 29, and her 4-month-old son, Case, were found in the rubble of steel beams crumpled like aluminum foil, hunks of dry wall and crushed cans of soda pop. They were among 24 people, seven of them children, who died in the EF5 tornado that devastated Moore.
Last week, Morales, 52, had surgery number nine.
“They are trying to fix all the things broke in me,” Morales said from her hospital room at Integris Southwest Medical Center. “I have never had this much broken inside of me at one time.
“I am just trying to get through the surgeries. I'll see where the next one will go. I am making a lot of progress. I am glad.”
Morales was at work at a self-storage business about two blocks from the 7-Eleven when the tornado sirens sounded. She didn't have a radio or television, and she couldn't find the weather report on the computer.
She called her boss, who told her to leave, but she waited to finish helping a customer before going.
Huge hailstones started beating on the windshield of her bright yellow Chevrolet Cavalier, forcing her to seek shelter at the convenience store at SW 4 and Telephone Road.
“I was trying to get away,” Morales said. “Great big hail started coming down. I was afraid I was going to get a busted window and glass on me. I thought it would pass and we would be OK. I didn't realize it would be a real tornado.”
Her daughter, Christina Morales, said she was talking on the phone to her mother, who told her she was in the cooler. Edith Morales remembers being in a bathroom with a sink and toilet.
“I tried to get close to the toilet,” said Morales, who friends and family call Edy. “All of a sudden ... the noise was incredible. It was like the room was spinning and then all of a sudden that was it.
“I don't know what happened from then. I found out I got hit with something real hard and (it) cut me on top of my head. I was awake and found outside.”
Her spine was severed, her shoulder was broken, her face and left hand were crushed, her right lung collapsed, her ribs were broken and she had dozens of cuts on her body. In addition, her heart was bruised.
Doctors and nurses almost lost Morales once, but medical staff was able to revive her with chest compressions, her daughter said. She has lived through infections and pneumonia.
She has had a rough time, no doubt. She had a tracheotomy to help her breathe. Her vital signs are just now keeping stable. The scars on her head are visible, but healing. Her strawberry red hair is starting to grow back and occasionally she manages to smile.
Something was wrong
Christina Morales knew something was wrong after the tornado passed. She said she tried calling her mother 50 times, but the phone would just ring, then go to voice mail.
She gathered up her brother, Raymond, and her sister, Tiffany, and headed to Moore to find their mother.
Christina Morales parked about a mile away and started to run. She said she ran until she couldn't run any more.
“As I got closer to Fourth (Street), everything was ripped away,” Christina Morales said. “As I turned left, there was nothing. I could see part of the 7-Eleven sign.
“I was so scared,” she said. “Most everything was gone. I knew she was not OK.”
Christina Morales was told everyone pulled from the 7-Eleven was dead. She was asked if she would identify a body.
“I said, ‘No,'” Christina Morales said. “I started feeling nauseous.”
The fire chief then started showing her pictures. First a photo of a pair of boots and then a picture of a pair of jeans. She couldn't tell if they belonged to her mother. She then learned the woman was between 150 and 160 pounds, too heavy for her mother.
“I was told all the survivors were taken to OU or here,” Christina Morales said. “I drove 90 miles an hour down Western Avenue.”
When Christina Morales arrived, she said, her mother's eyes were swollen shut as she talked to her before she was taken to her first surgery.
“I told you I would find you,” Christina Morales said she told her mother. “I will be right here when you wake up. She just shook her head.
“My fear was overwhelming.”
Christina Morales admits she was terrified her mother was going to die. She had lost her father in 2007. She didn't want to be without either of her parents.
“I was so scared,” Christina Morales said. “I didn't sleep for the first three days.”
Edith Morales' home, near May Avenue and 104th, and the self storage where she worked were not damaged.
Morales doesn't have health insurance because she hadn't worked at her new job long enough to be eligible for benefits.
American Red Cross is helping Morales arrange for long-term care once she is ready to leave the hospital.
How to help
The Morales family has set up a fund to help with other expenses. To
donate, go to www.