NORMAN — Shayla Taylor was ready to give birth to her second child just as the impending destruction of Monday’s EF-5 tornado bore down on the Moore Medical Center.
Her four nurses determined her labor was too far along to move her to refuge with the rest of those in the hospital. Shayla’s husband, Jerome Taylor, and their 4-year-old son, Shaiden, went downstairs with the others.
That left Shayla and the nurses to brace for the storm.
The power went out, and the electrical outlets in the hallway weren’t working off the medical center’s generators, she said. So the nurses moved her to an operating room, closer to a live outlet.
“They moved me in there, and then they came back and said, ‘We’re going to have to just cover you up,’” she said. “They got towels out of the warmer and piled them on top of me around the bed, and then they all just ducked down around me.
“I could feel the floor shake, and I looked up and I saw the ceiling shake, and the installation starting to fall down,” she said.
“By that time, I closed my eyes so stuff wouldn’t get in them. I just turned my head, and I heard hail falling. And me and the nurses were just sitting there praying.”
About 15 seconds later, she opened her eyes. The operating room wall was gone. Shayla could see Interstate 35 and the Warren Theatre.
Shayla was still having strong contractions, she said, despite receiving an epidural. But she was concerned about the safety of the women caring for her.
“It was never about me. I just wanted to make sure that the people that were taking care of me and my family was okay,” she said.
The nurses — Barbara Brand, Cindy Popejoy, Bonny Stephens and Alyson Heeke — surrounding Shayla’s bed as the tornado hit the building were all safe.
After the storm, Jerome moved past the rubble to get to his wife’s side. He found help and a backboard and headed upstairs. They eventually found their way to an ambulance.
Shayla was transported to the HealthPlex Hospital in Norman, where she gave birth to an 8-pound, 3-ounce, 21-inch long boy at 7:25 p.m.
“His name is Braeden Immanuel,” she said. “I had the name picked out for months, but Immanuel actually means, ‘God is with us.’”
Braeden, affectionately nicknamed “Twister,” was one of 11 babies born at Norman Regional campuses on Monday.
Nine were delivered at the HealthPlex and two at the Moore Medical Center. After the tornado, three mothers and their babies were transferred from the Moore Medical Center to the HealthPlex.
Incredibly, Shayla and her family at the Moore Medical Center made it out unscathed.
“There’s something inherent in nurses that you don’t think about yourself,” Brand said. “You take care of your patients because that’s just what you are.”