The tornado outbreak of April 27, 2011 took far too many lives across the Tennessee Valley. Amid the destruction though, small miracles took place – like the birth of a child at Decatur General Hospital.
Farrah Hemen will celebrate her first birthday on a day when many will revisit the loss of lovedones. Sarah Hemen, Farrah’s mom, gets emotional thinking about her experience. She doesn’t think she’ll never forget the fear she felt that day.
“We have this big oak tree in our front yard,” Hemen recalls, “It was swayin’ back and forth and my dad was like… ‘You’ve got to get her to the hospital right now.'”
Just after 2 o’clock in the afternoon, Hemen arrived at the hospital with tornado warnings sounding all around. “I remember one nurse saying you know, ‘There’s a tornado on Highway 20.’ That’s right down the road from here,” Hemen remembers.
Hemen’s doctor, Randall Wendt, was at the time, Chief OBGYN at Decatur General. He remembers hospital staff cramming together in the hallways as the storms grew worse and prevented workers from leaving.
New moms and babies were brought into center rooms and hallways, away from windows. Only generators were powering the building and medical staff coped the best they could to ensure the safety of everyone there.
“None of the nurses could leave,” Dr. Wendt explains, “So you didn’t just have one shift of nurses there. You had two shifts.”
That perhaps, was a comforting thought, when Hemen received the most terrifying news of the day – far worse then reports of damage outside the hospital walls. A machine revealed her daughter’s heart had stopped and she was rushed for an emergency c-section.
“I will never forget the fear I had inside of me,” Hemen remembers.
Her fear subsided minutes later when Farrah was born unharmed. It’s the kind of moment, in such chaos, even a veteran like Dr. Wendt will remember, “Delivering a baby safely is one of those treasured memories.”
Sarah plans to one day share with Farrah the story of her remarkable birthday – once she’s a few years old. She has saved newspaper articles about the aftermath of the tornadoes and hopes they will help show Farrah just how special she is.
“All I can say is God works in mysterious ways,” Hemen explains, “He took some lives that day… and gave me a life.”