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Tornado birth: Mom endures labor as twister destroys hospital

Shayla Taylor tells the story of being in active labor as her hospital room crumbles around her during the deadly Moore, Okla.,tornado.

When a devastating tornado touched down in Moore, Okla., on Monday afternoon, Shayla Taylor was on the upper floor of the local hospital, in active labor with her second child.

As the floor shook “like an earthquake” beneath her and ceiling tiles and insulation fell overhead, the 25-year-old huddled with four nurses, braving both the peak contractions of childbirth and the wrath of the worst twister the veteran Oklahoman had ever endured.

“We were all just sitting there holding each other’s hands and praying,” Taylor told NBC News.

Norman Regional Health System

Jerome Taylor, left, Shayla Taylor, center, and Shaiden Taylor, right, welcomed baby Braeden Immanuel at the height of Monday's killer tornado in Moore, Okla.

Moore Medical Center, a 46-bed acute care hospital at 700 S. Telephone Road, took a direct hit from the F-5 tornado, with wind speeds that topped 200 miles per hour.

The blow devastated the hospital, as news photos plainly show, ripping away the roof and walls.

After the chaos, Taylor said she heard not the freight train sound described by so many witnesses, but the absolute silence of the storm’s center. Then she opened her eyes.

“All of a sudden I could see daylight and the wall was gone,” she said. “I look out and I see I-35 and part of the Warren theater,” which later became the triage center for victims of the tornado that killed 24 and injured more than 230 people.

Rick Wilking / Reuters

An aerial view of damage at the Moore Medical Center is shown in Moore, Okla., on May 21, after a tornado ravaged the suburb of Oklahoma City.

She had been dilated to 9 centimeters, nearly ready to deliver the baby, when nurses gave her a quick shot to slow labor during the height of the storm. 

Taylor was quickly reunited with her husband, Jerome Taylor, 29, who had taken their 4-year-old son, Shaiden, to wait out the tornado with others in the hospital cafeteria. With the help of hospital workers, she was carefully carried through the destroyed building and out to a waiting ambulance, which whisked her 5 miles to another hospital in the Norman Regional Health System.

Three hours later, after doctors determined that the petite Taylor would need a cesarean section due to the baby's size, she delivered Braeden Immanuel, a healthy 8-pound, 3-ounce boy.

“His middle name means ‘God is with us,’” said Taylor. “The name had been picked out for months. Now I know why.”

Taylor is among 30 patients and staffers at Moore Medical Center who survived the tornado, which destroyed the hospital, said Kelly Wells, a health system spokeswoman. No decision has been made yet about whether to rebuild or simply raze the site.

Two days after the storm, Taylor and her family are recovering from the trauma of the chaotic birth. The family can’t locate their car, a Toyota Camry, which had been parked in the hospital lot and is now nowhere to be found.

Sossy Dombourian / NBC News

Newborn Braeden Immanuel Taylor is fine after his harrowing birth, his mother says.

“I don’t know if it ended up inside the hospital or down the street,” she said.

Their home is safe, however, and Jerome Taylor, who works for The Hartford insurance company, has been overwhelmed trying to help his neighbors cope.

Oklahomans are used to tornado warnings and Taylor said she wasn’t particularly alarmed before Monday’s storm.

“I’m used to sirens,” she said. “If you panicked, you’d be in a constant panic.”

Now, however, she’s thinking twice about living in Tornado Alley.

“The tornadoes always track through here,” she said. “It’s not to say everybody’s going to pack and leave tomorrow, but they start to reconsider things.”