Several tornadoes ripped through Lake of the Ozarks last Saturday, Memorial Day weekend. There was one reported injury.
Rachel and Robert Jenkins had gone to Laurie, Missouri, to visit friends Clint and Kim Gawart and enjoy a weekend on the lake. They tracked the storm system even as the skies darkened, and grew more concerned as they were unexpectedly delayed returning to the dock.
After they docked the boat in the blinding rain, Kim and the boys went to the house, Clint finished up, Rachel gathered a few last things, and Rob tried to grab a deck chair that had blown across the yard.
Rob never made it.
From the deck of the Gawart’s house, Rob’s 15 year old son, Ethan, and 13 year old son, Benjamin, could see the trees bending. A limb broke off and crashed down five feet from Rob. He knew he was in trouble. Scared, the boys watched as another tree broke completely in half and they yelled for their father to stop. Struggling to climb the hill in flip flops, the rain beating him up, he didn’t hear them.
Suddenly, Rob felt something shove him face down onto his right side, facing up the steep hill. He saw trees smash onto a nearby dock. He looked around to grab his flip flops but was facing the wrong direction. He then felt a thud on his right leg. He started to drag himself to his feet, leaving his flip flops pinned underneath a tree.
He couldn’t seem to bear any weight on his right leg. He looked down and saw a nasty, baseball-sized gaping wound on his right shin, with blood streaming down his leg.
Rachel dropped everything she was holding and sprinted from the dock to Rob. Before she got there he yelled to her to call 911. She ran to the house and yelled to Ethan to call 911. Ethan and Kim ducked inside and began dialing.
Rachel jumped over the railing and ran up to the next door neighbors’, but got no answer. She hustled back down to Rob, then realized she couldn’t get him over the railing. Breaking spindles in two with her bare hands, a rain-drenched Rachel finally reached Rob. Bracing him on her small frame, she continued yelling for help as they struggled to reach the top of the stairs.
The next door neighbors had been hiding in an inside room. Their grown son had come out to get an old mattress to shield them when he heard Rachel yelling. They got Rob into their own house, soaking wet and bleeding. They made a makeshift tourniquet with a belt and sweatshirt. Ever level-headed, Rob said, “Honey, if I have internal bleeding, I’m not going to make it.” Rob noticed his toes were turning blue. The pain from the tourniquet was excruciating.
Kim was frantically going door to door, trying to find chainsaws and trucks to remove the downed trees so the ambulance could get through.
Unknown people began showing up at the neighbors’ house to help. One was a hospital volunteer. He replaced the makeshift tourniquet with a gauze one, and after a while said he thought the bleeding had stopped, so they loosened the tourniquet. “My pain level went from a 10 to a 4 at that point,” Rob remembers.
It took more than thirty minutes for the ambulance to get to Rob, and it was another half an hour to the hospital. The ER doctor asked Rob what happened.
“A tree pushed me up the hill before another tree hit my leg,” he replied.
The doctor looked confused and said, “You don’t have any abrasions or bruises on your shoulder, and your shirt is clean.”
Whatever knocked Rob out of the way, it WASN’T a tree.
Surgery took ninety minutes. Torn muscle and the severed tendons to his toes were repaired. Despite embedded tree bark, the wound wasn’t terribly dirty. The only fracture Rob had was to his fibula, and it was a clean break. They didn’t even need to cast it. He will need some therapy but should make a full recovery.
Some of you might wonder, where God was in all of this?
God’s fingerprints are everywhere.
God was there protecting Clint at the dock, who didn’t even know anything was happening.
God was there when a tree limb fell within a few feet of Rob but didn’t hurt him.
He was there pushing Rob up the hill instead of down, preventing him from reaching for his flip flops. Had he reached them his head would have been crushed by the tree.
He was with petite Rachel, helping and protecting her as she got help, busted through wooden rail, and got her husband up the stairs.
He was with the next door neighbors, who were home at the time and whose son heard her cries for help.
He was with the hospital volunteer who helped save Rob’s leg, and life.
He was with Kim and Ethan as they called 911. He was with Kim as she thought to get help to remove trees. He was with every volunteer who got the debris removed, in the rain, for a guy they didn’t even know.
He was there when the main power line to the area was knocked out, making any local downed power lines a non-issue. He was with the ambulance and hospital crews.
He was with the easily-repaired tendons. He was in the perfect placement of the clean fracture of the fibula, the non-balancing bone. He was in the fact that the break was the fibula and not the tibia, which could have ruptured an artery. With a clean fibula fracture there was no need to set it, so no need for a cast. A cast would have made wound care impossible.
God is there in the hearts of all the people who have committed to bringing meals to the family for several weeks, and who continue to pray.
God was there over the previous several weeks when Rob has prayed to be a servant who brings God glory.
God is with Rob’s sister-in-law, yours truly, who has the privilege of bringing you this story.
And He is with you now, as you read this.
To see the damage created by this storm system, click here.
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