Sally Wallace, RN, was on shift the day an EF-5 tornado hit Moore, destroying the hospital where she worked.

by Bobby Anderson,
Staff Writer

Three years ago this May, Sally Wallace, RN, lived through arguably the longest shift of her entire career.
When she reported to work the morning of May 20th, it was like any normal Oklahoma day in May, ripe with the possibility of severe weather on the horizon.
By the time her shift ended Wallace and other Moore Medical Center staff had survived an EF-5 tornado that had brought the hospital walls down around them.
They had evacuated an entire hospital and then prepared to take care of the injured who poured in by car or on foot.
With no power, no supplies and no sterile protection the nurses at Moore Medical made sure that no one died at the hospital even though 24 people would in the community, including seven children barely three miles down the road at Briarwood Elementary.
Wallace is the lead charge nurse for Norman Regional Moore and the Healthplex.
She recently shared her story before the anniversary of the storm and the opening of the new Norman Regional Moore hospital.
“I was charge nurse that day in the ER. I kept my kids home from school that day and left them with my sister because of the potential for storms. I knew they would be safe and nobody would be running around in the afternoon picking them up from school.”
Usually, Mondays are super busy but we weren’t very busy that day. It was an unusual day because we didn’t have nearly as many patients as we normally would have on a Monday, which I guess was a good thing.
We started watching the storms early that afternoon and kept an eye on the weather. It came down to a Code Black alert and at that point we took all the patients we had in the ER which was about five at the time and took them back to our central location in the fast track of the ER. Between then and the time the storm came we had between 200 and 300 people in the community come looking for shelter. Our security and our ER manager helped get them all safe into the cafeteria while we were able to concentrate on our patients and kind of watch the weather.
It just felt like a long time sitting there watching the weather and just knowing it’s coming towards us. When we knew it was close we handed out pillows and blankets to all of our patients and had then hunker down.
Then we lost power and then we just hunkered down behind the nurses desk and just waited for it to pass.
It was just like everybody says. It was so loud and the pressure in the air was so heavy that it felt like it was sucking all the breath out of you.
Once it finally passed we got up, checked everybody to make sure they were OK. The building settled in that point and there was a bunch of dust coming up with ceiling tiles falling.
We had to check the damage and see if we could even function as an ER at that point.
There was no way. There were so many cars and debris in the parking lot we couldn’t even get out of the ambulance door or the main ER door.
There was so much debris we had to lift people over in their wheelchairs over the debris pile. There were quite a few people from the community outside helping us. We evacuated and went over to the Warren Theatre and set up an outdoor triage area there.
I take 2 mg 2 times a day. It makes me calm all day long and Ativan No Prescription after I sleep like a baby.
We had people from the neighborhoods bringing injured people by. We had Emstat and Midwest City Ambulance Service helping us transport people to the Porter campus or to the Healthplex.
I’ve never experienced anything like it and I hope I never do again.
“It was the scariest day of our lives.”
Norman Regional had owned and operated the former Moore Medical Center for more than six years before it was destroyed.
Immediately after the tornado, employees from Moore Medical Center were found positions elsewhere within the Health System. The physician offices and clinics were also quickly relocated to temporary spaces in Norman and south Oklahoma City.
The new four-story structure offers a variety of services including:
* A 24/7 Emergency Department that includes a fast track area for minor illness and injuries
* Physical Therapy services
* Diagnostic Imaging including MRI, CT, Ultrasound and X-ray
* Laboratory Services
* Physician offices including Family Medicine, Pediatrics, OBGYN, Cardiology, and more
* Conference space that doubles as a safe area for patients and staff
Wallace says this is the first spring where her anxiety about storms has been under control.
“Every day I think about it,” Wallace said. “I’m just really excited we’re going to have a new place for the Moore community. I’m super excited to get in there.”