Volunteer at Freeman describes night of the Joplin tornado - KOAM TV 7

Volunteer at Freeman describes night of the Joplin tornado


When the May 22, 2011 tornado destroyed St. John's, Freeman was left as the only hospital in town.  All at once hundreds of lives were left in the hands of these medical professionals.

Kristin Huke was at Freeman Hospital that day.  Her nephew, Gunter, was born just before the tornado struck Joplin.  Kristin says she had no idea the extent of the storm until she saw the fear in eyes of the people pouring into the hospital doors.

"There was a few people and they had debris and insulation in their hair and on their clothes and they were absolutely freaked out, eyes wide, scared to death but then the injuries were getting worse and worse," says Kristin.

Kristin is an oil painter from Carthage with no medical background.

But that night she helped the 110 doctors and hundreds of nurses on staff, doing whatever she could to assist.

"Nurses were needing supplies and I didnt know where the supply center was until that day and so I was just making runs, getting anything I could.  We ended up in the heart wing in the linen closet.  I went down and asked the girls at the desk if they had any extra sheets or towels or anything because some of the people that came in needed to be covered up - they were all freezing, shaken up - they just needed something to make them feel warm and safe I think.  So we just started going all around the hospital and getting supplies."

Freeman's emergency room was 93% full when the storm hit and officials say they saw 750 patients in a matter of hours.

"I remember the first few patients coming in and realizing how bad it was going to be and taking a deep breath and thinking to myself 'we can do this'", says Paige Neuenswander, an emergency room nurse at Freeman.  "You just put everything from earlier in the day in the back of your head and you do what's in front of you and you take care of the patient or person that's there and that's what everybody did."

Two years later, as Kristin walks the empty hallways of Freeman, she can't help but think back to that day, the faces she saw and people she comforted, and is glad she was in the right place to make a differnce.

Freeman hospital officials say doctors performed 22 lifesaving surgeries in 12 hours, with everyone doing their part to help neighbors, friends and strangers.

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