MOORE, Okla. —
For Shay-la Taylor, May 20, 2013, is a day she’ll never forget. Not only did she survive a tornado, but she also gave birth.
Taylor’s son, Braeden Immanuel, was born shortly after she was evacuated from the destroyed Moore Medical Center, which had been flattened by the day’s EF-5 tornado. Now a year later, Taylor said her son lives up to the nickname “Twister,” given to him shortly after birth.
“He’s about as wild as a tornado. He’s all over the place. He’s 10 times more active than my older son was. He’s into everything,” Taylor said. “He’s unpredictable. We call him ‘Bam Bam,’ and my mom says he acts like a tornado sometimes.”
Taylor was moments from giving birth at the Moore hospital when the tornado hit the building. As the storm approached, Taylor’s nurses decided her labor was too far progressed to move her downstairs to safety with the rest of those in the hospital, including Taylor’s husband, Jerome, and their then 4-year-old son, Shaiden. Taylor and her four nurses were left upstairs bracing for the worst.
The nurses — Barbara Brand, Cindy Popejoy, Bonny Stephens and Alyson Heeke — piled towels on top of Taylor and ducked down around her bed just before the tornado collided with the building, Taylor said. When the storm passed, the women opened their eyes to discover the wall was gone and they could see straight out to the interstate.
Taylor still was having strong contractions. Her husband and the nurses managed to get her out of the badly damaged medical center and into an ambulance, which took her to HealthPlex Hospital in nearby Norman. There, she gave birth to her healthy, 8-pound, 3-ounce boy.
The following days were hectic, Taylor said, as she attempted to balance reconciling what had happened with caring for a newborn.
Now a year later, Taylor, who lives in Oklahoma City, said traveling through Moore is painful. Though the impending anniversary brings a bittersweet mix of emotions, Taylor said she looks forward to celebrating her son’s birthday.
Taylor has plans to throw a joint birthday party for her son and the other two baby boys born at the Moore hospital earlier that morning. All the boys’ parents affectionately call them the “’nado boys” or “’nado brothers.”
The party will include all the families, and, of course, Taylor said all her nurses and doctors are invited.
Now in the throes of another tornado season, Taylor said she still feels some anxiety thinking about what happened on May 20, 2013. But for the most part, she feels an overarching sense of gratitude that nobody was hurt in the destroyed hospital that day.
“We have newborn babies out of it — not just mine, there were two others born before the tornado. They’re still here,” she said. “I don’t really have survivor’s guilt — just very excited and elated it turned out the way it did, because it could have gone way different. It could have gone completely different.”
Though Taylor said she’s grown up in Oklahoma, May 20, 2013, was her only experience she’s directly had with tornadoes.
“I say that’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so I think I’ve hit my quota,” she said, laughing, on how she wouldn’t mind leaving her home state for good.
As for the future growth of her family, Taylor said she’ll carefully be planning her future children’s birthdays.
“I still want another one, but I have said I will not be having a baby during a tornado season. Absolutely not,” she said. “... No Mays, no spring babies. I don’t ever want to be anywhere near that type of situation again.”
Cruz writes for the Norman Transcript.