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Moore tornado victim is released after 125 days in hospitals, rehab centers

Edith Morales, 52, spent 125 days in hospitals and rehab centers after she was injured in the May 20 tornado. She survived the EF5 tornado while hiding in the restroom at the 7-Eleven in Moore, where three people died.
by Diana Baldwin Modified: September 25, 2013 at 9:40 pm •  Published: September 25, 2013

One of the first things tornado victim Edith Morales wanted to do after spending 125 days in hospitals and rehab centers was go to the Oklahoma State Fair.

“I go to the fair every year,” said Morales, 52, who was critically injured when she took cover from the May 20 tornado in the restroom at the 7-Eleven, where three others died. “I really wanted to do it. I didn't want to miss out.”

Morales, whose family calls her Edy, was released Saturday and attended the fair on Sunday.

She was all smiles as she talked about her trip to the fair in her motorized wheelchair. The tornado left her paralyzed from the chest down.

Morales shared with her family an Indian taco, spiral potatoes and a hamburger.

“It was really good,” she said. “It wasn't hospital food.”

She saw the wine tasting exhibit, but has to wait until next year because of the medicine she is taking.

Morales was nervous on her first trip out, but once she started looking at the exhibits her fear eased.

“It was truly fun — great fun,” she said, wearing a hat she acquired at the fair.

Her last four months have been everything but fun. She has had 13 surgeries and more are in her future.

The storm left her head crushed and skin ripped from her left hand, which had to be sewn to her stomach for 21 days for the skin graft. Her road to recovery is still long.

She had to return to the hospital Monday when her catheter malfunctioned.

Her daughter, Christina Morales, and her sister, Janet Rudolph, took a 15-day home health care course so they can treat Edith Morales at home. She is living with another of her six sisters, Debbie Cahmar, in southwest Oklahoma City.

“She needs care 24/7,” Rudolph said. “It is a full-time job for us. We want her to get healed enough that she can be more independent.

“She was so perfectly healthy, and one day changed her life forever.”

‘Why God kept her here'

Edith 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 couldn't find the weather report on the computer.

She called her boss, who told her to leave, but she finished helping a customer first.

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.

Edith Morales and EH Pittman, a 29-year-old clerk at the store, were critically injured. The bodies of Terri Long, 49, and Megan Futrell, 29, and her 4-month-old son, Case, were found in the rubble.

“She asked why God kept her here,” Rudolph said. “She asks why it hurts so long.”

Help from others

Although Edith Morales is still hurting and learning how to live in a wheelchair, she is doing so with help from her family and strangers.

Catholic Charities gave the family a van that can accommodate her wheelchair, which was given to her by a woman she didn't know.

Red Cross is having the carpet removed from three bedrooms and the living room of the home where Edith Morales will be living and installing wood floors so it will be easier for the wheelchair to move. Red Cross also paid $900 for her medicine when she got out of the rehab center.

“We couldn't get Edy home without the help,” Rudolph said.

Edith Morales lost in the tornado her late husband's wedding band, which she wore on her thumb. Her other rings were cut from her hands when she arrived at the hospital. A jeweler is going to repair her rings for free.

Edith Morales has relied on her positive attitude and prayer to get through the long days of pain.

“Too many days I didn't think I would make it through the pain,” she said. “They would pray with me to help make it stop.”

Christina Morales told her mother before she went for her first surgery that she would be there when she returned. Her daughter has been by her side every day and is living with her mother now.

“I knew this day would come,” Christina Morales said about her mother leaving the rehab center. “I had no doubts. I knew it would be a long road, maybe three years, 10 years.”

Her mother also knows life is going to be tough, but is excited to be out of the hospital and rehab center.

“It is going to take my family to help me with my injuries,” Edith Morales said. “I have to be patient.”

by Diana Baldwin
Sr. Reporter
Diana Baldwin has been an Oklahoma journalist since 1976 and came to The Oklahoman in 1991. She covered the Oklahoma City bombing and covered the downfall of Oklahoma City police forensic chemist Joyce Gilchrist misidentifying evidence. She wrote...
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