The Murrah bombing, Daina Bradley, an amputation and Eli

I’m re-posting what’s below in honor of the 20th anniversary today of the bombing of Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City:

Tomorrow I’m participating in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.

I wanted to share a story about a doctor I got to know, who was there shortly after the domestic terrorist bomb attack on that happened at 9:02 a.m., at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City.

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In Dr. David Tuggle’s own words, here’s the story:

Wednesday, April 19, 1995, OU Children’s Medical Center, Oklahoma City

Wednesday is my traditional operating day. This is like, every Wednesday, I had hernias. Every day, for 26 years. I was doing a hernia with the intern, and, it’s interesting, I remember it, because, it was such a shock. I do really have a good recollection of that day.

The nurse stuck her head in the door, and said Rita – Rita was my secretary – called and said

“Do you know where you’re supposed to be?”

I said, I’m operating on this hernia. This is where I’m supposed to be. The nurse said, “OK.” It was maybe 9:15. It was the second case.

We’re moving along. I think we’re closing the skin, and, she sticks her head in the door and says,

“A bomb went off downtown. And that’s what she’s calling about.”

I said,

“In a building? What? In a building?”

So, she said,

Yes, the bomb went off.

I said, “Really?”

Back then, we had disaster drills, twice a year. It was required by every hospital. Our disaster drills were almost always on a Wednesday in April. We’ve been doing that since the 80s. That’s just was what we did.

Dr. David Tuggle, photo, The Oklahoman.
Dr. David Tuggle, photo, The Oklahoman.
Wednesday morning – it was a disaster drill.

I walked out.

It wasn’t a drill.

I went to the front desk of the OR and said “Stop every elective operation. Send all the patients home who are here to have elective operations. If somebody argues with you, tell me, I will come personally talk to them, but, we’ve got to stop.”

I went down to the ER, we had this little bitty ER-it’s much nicer now-and there were 200 doctors and nurses crammed into a small space.

We were all just waiting. And waiting, and waiting.

We got nine kids or something like that, I can’t remember. Three of them were sent right to the OR.

I stayed and did triage in the ER, and I sent the patients up so my partners and residents could operate on them. One kid had brain injuries. That’s all documented.

Some of them (the kids) were from the street, some from the daycare.

The guy that was the chief of pediatric orthopedics, his name is Andy Sullivan.

ALFRED MURRAH FEDERAL BUILDING CAR BOMB EXPLOSION, BOMBING: Front page of The Daily Oklahoman as it appeared on Thursday, April 20, 1995.
ALFRED MURRAH FEDERAL BUILDING CAR BOMB EXPLOSION, BOMBING: Front page of The Daily Oklahoman as it appeared on Thursday, April 20,


We could hear what the command, their walkie talkies at the time, and we kept hearing them talking about kids in a daycare center. Kids in the daycare center. And, that it was really jammed. There was a big traffic jam of ambulances, and, it was just crazy.

A lot of walking wounded went to St. Anthony’s, and it was damaged, but, they took care of a lot off patients.

We decided we’d gotten everything we were going to get. And, that there were kids there (at the bombing) that still needed help. We agreed I would go to the site with the police captain, and he would stay there.

I had one of those gigantic Motorola hand-held cellphones with me. It was like a brick.

10:30 a.m., downtown Oklahoma City

There were a lot of people who were going there as volunteers. I saw a gastroenterologist in a three – piece suit, in the building. I saw my dermatologist, in the building, trying to help. There were a lot of volunteer helpers.

They (police) took me to the back, to the south side, so, all the stuff was still kind of falling down. I said, “Stop, everybody here needs a hard hat. You need to go to the closest construction site and get everybody in a hard hat.”

The smoke was billowing. There’s no telling what kind of fumes were there. Half the building was gone. You could see the profiles of dead people who were still in the building. I went around the back.

We put hard hats on and went in. At that time, there were three people being extricated.

A woman was down in a hole whose left arm and leg were trapped.

This is an hour or a half or two hours afterwards.

Then they took me to the down to see Daina, who was in the basement, who had one of the cement support pillars on her leg.

She was in a pool of water, and she was getting cold.

There was one other girl they were working on the other side. She ended up coming out at about 12 hours, the last one out. I operated her for a spleen injury later, she did fine.

Daina was trapped. I looked at that and said,

“So, we need the jaws off life.”

The engineer’s down there, and he’s going,

“No. The whole building comes down if you move that.”

There was a giant support pillar that was angling down and she was in a hole. She was in the hole.

As I walked around the corner as we went down in the basement, there was a guy just standing there, just leaning there, with his hand against the pillar, leaning on it.

I said,

“What, you takin’ a break?”

He said,

“No, I’m monitoring for vibrations. If this pillar moves, we have to evacuate the building.”

“I was like, OK. Keep doing that. Please.”

Everyone else had gloves on. He was the only one who didn’t have gloves on.

To really get down to her, we had to go head down, feet up.

I checked her pulse. There were paramedics down there.

I called Andy and said, I think you need to bring an amputation set, some morphine, and some Versed.
You can’t check out IV narcotics, but, he did.

Andy gathered up the stuff.

We met up. We went down together, looked at it, and strategized on it.

Can’t bring the building down. We talked over how to go at it. He’s a little shorter than me. He would fit better. I would be his circulator. I’d get the stuff he needed, and drag him out if he needed dragging out.

I tried to start an IV. She was so cold and clamped down we couldn’t get anything in.

I was able to give her Versed, but I didn’t give her morphine.

I was pretty sure she had low blood pressure. And I didn’t want her to crash. Doing CPR in that whole would have been awful.

I gave her a little Versed, and, we put a tourniquet on her and really cranked it down.

She was in shock. She felt better, a lot better, less shock after the Versed.

She was not perfectly coherent. She could answer yes or no to us appropriately.

Andy told her,

“I’m going to have to take your leg off to get you out of here.”

She said,

“Go ahead.”

She would ask for help. We’d give her drinks of water. She mostly, would just lay there. She would rouse and talk to you when you needed to talk to her.

These are the items used by Dr. Andy Sullivan to free Daina Bradley from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, a steel scalpel, a nylon rope, which served as a tourniquet, and his pocketknife. These items are part of an exhibit on display at the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Bradley was trapped in the rubble of the building during the April 19, 1995 bombing of the building. The Oklahoman.
These are the items used by Dr. Andy Sullivan to free Daina Bradley from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, a steel scalpel, a nylon rope, which served as a tourniquet, and his pocketknife. These items are part of an exhibit on display at the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Bradley was trapped in the rubble of the building during the April 19, 1995 bombing of the building. Photo taken Wednesday, March 30, 2005. By Bill Waugh/The Oklahoman.

During the amputation on Daina Bradley’s right knee, the scalpels kept breaking. Sullivan finished the job with a pocket knife. At one point, the doctors were ordered out of the building when bomb sniffing dogs found a false alarm.

Dr. Tuggle:

He did a through-the-knee amputation. We had just a tourniquet on to stop the bleeding.

He let it on for 10 or 20 minutes.

Sullivan was the chief of pediatric orthopedic surgery at the time.

He finished the amputation.

It’s tendon, and blood vessel. He didn’t have to go through bone. He went through the joint.

He was exhausted. I pulled her out. Once I got her up to where the firemen could help me, they put her up on a gurney, and I started clamping her blood vessels.


Dr. Tuggle told Daina Bradley, “We’re going to get you out of here.” He oversaw her ambulance transport and continued to try to help other victims who needed medical attention on the site.

4 p.m.

Dr. Tuggle:

After we got back, I was just making rounds and stuff. I was on call.

I called my wife, Judy.

I said, “How you doing honey?”

She said, “I’m fine, how are you doing?”

“I said, fine. It’s been a busy day at work.”

She goes, “Yeah, a bomb went off at the federal building.”

The bomb rattled windows at Judy’s office 20 miles away.

I said, “Yeah, I ruined my socks. I was down there.”

“You went down there?”

“Yeah, I went down there.”

“What did you go down there for?”

Dr. Tuggle didn’t tell his wife what he’d been up to at the bombing site until he got home.

“She’d have freaked.”

I said, “I’ll be a little late.”

He got home that day around 11 p.m.

The amputee victim, Daina Bradley, 20, and her sister, Felicia Bradley, 23, survived the bombing. But the blast killed the Bradleys’ mother, Cheryl Bradley Hammons, 44, and Dana Bradley’s children, 3-month-old Gabreon Bruce and 3-year-old Peachlyn Bradley.

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Daina Bradley had been visiting the Social Security office to order a card for her infant son when the bomb went off.

Her children and mother were among 168 claimed by the bombing and its aftermath. Also among the victims, a nurse who rushed to the building to help. She was killed by fallen debris.

Twenty two years after the attack, Dr. Tuggle, a pediatric surgeon, saved Eli’s life. My son was born with a blocked bowel, a condition that could have killed him.

Tuggle patched up his guts and helped scrape me off the floor when he told me he’d have to operate. Today, at 1, Eli is growing fat and wild. Little buddy has cystic fibrosis, but, he’s doing great.

Tuggle, after performing an estimated 20,000 surgeries at OU Children’s in Oklahoma City, has retired to Austin, Texas.

Me n buddy

I signed up for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon six months ago.

I’ve got a sore knee, and tomorrow morning, it could be more like a 50 yard dash, for me.

That’s really OK.

I’m going to show up, have a moment of silence to honor the victims, like Bradley’s children, who did not deserve what they got.

I’m running for myself, too, and for Eli – I’m going to be training him like a race horse later in life, so I might as well get myself in shape. OK, fine – I also used this as an excuse for two at-odds goals: weight loss and baked goods consumption. I actually achieved both.

Through posts like this, I’d like to spread awareness for our cause – Raising money to fund a cure for my son’s deadly disease, cystic fibrosis.

Please consider a donation! How about a dollar a mile?

In the marathon tomorrow, I’m going to line up, bum knee and all. It doesn’t matter to me how far I get.

Me, and my little family — we’re all just happy to be here.

Dr. Tuggle and Eli.
Dr. Tuggle and Eli.

The cupcake at the end of the marathon

Funny, I remember I said I’d write about fitness this week.

Trying to blog to rules like “Write fitness stories only” is like….uh…I’m brain dead. I got it! It’s like, when you go to write a news story and try to bend the facts toward an assumption of some kind. DOESN’T WORK. Don’t do it. I don’t do it. Any time I’m sure things are one way, they turn out to be another. There are twists and turns. Gotta let the facts guide the story. Gotta let life guide the blog. Because I think, if nothing else, this is a survival blog. Actually, that is one theme that works, because that’s what we’re doing, all the time. Figuring out how to make it all fit together somehow and work. Changing poo diapers, meeting deadlines, making appointments, playing monsters, good days, bad days, better days, trying, failing, having a laugh, having a cry, getting back up, then slowing down, talking to a friend and eating a cupcake.

Any way, life has taken on that marathon feeling. Rather than exercise about it I had a glorious, glorious cupcake with my friend Khina and her daughter, Laila’s best friend Holland, a little girl with long, curly auburn hair. We went to an art show tonight to raise money for our sweet CF buddy Hayden and the CF Foundation. Hayden is 7 — her art is amazing! I bought these cute little note cards based on her prints.

I loved each one of her paintings, but I loved this one the most:

Love who you are
Love who you are

Laila and Holland went coo coo sugar high on the yummy art show goodies and we set up camp in a dressing room of all places to wrangle them. The show was at a shop. Then we left to run ’em and got more sugar: cupcakes.

I came home, put the buddies to bed. Laila got up four times, not surprising, and I let her help me make a video. Now she’s asleep and now I plan to talk to Mark for what seems like the first time this week.

I’m taking a few days off next week to chill with my buddies and go with Laila on a school field trip.

Here’s what’s on my agenda: Pick a new show to binge watch: — Game of Thrones? Any suggestions? Leave me a comment.

Take it easy.

Here’s our marathon mash-up:

3 nice notes and a few reasons to keep keeping on.

Good morning!

Every once in a while I get too busy to write too much. Thus, I ask myself: “What’s the point and why am I doing this and should I continue or give it up?”

'Cause srsly, I'm tired.
‘Cause srsly, I’m tired.

Continue reading 3 nice notes and a few reasons to keep keeping on.

Inside one day balancing family, work, life and cystic fibrosis

Here is a day in the life with my family.

A day at the fair

Mark gassed up the mini.

He cleaned it up, too, at the car wash down our street.

He was sucking goldfish crackers out of the upholstery with a vacuum when he got offered ice. Street name for meth! The guy showed him a $20 bill to let Mark know he was legit. Mark declined the offer. The would-be dealer next asked Mark for a ride to the convenience store, which was across the street. Mark also declined this request. Would-be dealer wandered off. Mark continued to vacuum goldfish.

The mini was ready! Time to go to the fair, kids!

I love the fair.

Deep fried things on a stick, and spandex spandex everywhere! We’ve got yer above-ground tornado shelters for sale. We’ve got yer bearded lady swamp thing. We’ve got yer alpacas. We’ve got yer farm animal birthing center — celibacy training for children! We’ve got yer giant turkey legs. I mean…it’s all in one place. Can’t beat it.

Laila was thrilled. She talked about the fair for days and days.

We took her on the merry-go-round.

It gave her toddler-sized PTSD.

Terror on the merry go round
Terror on the merry go round

She screamed and thrashed every time we walked past it for the rest of the day.

We took her on the spinning strawberries.

Her face went blank. She loved it!

Next we hit the flying bumble bees.

Blank face. She dug her fingers into my thighs in distress.

It was a hit!

We hit up the birthing center.

Ooooh. Those piglets are cute. I’m never eating pork again…

Are those chicks in the incubator dead or sleeping? I’m sure it’s just nap time, but we’re not sticking around to find out. Move along, Laila.

I couldn’t go on any rides last year. I was pregnant.

I went for the swings this time. I seem to remember this from childhood.

OK, under the safety bar. Check. Click the belt. Check.

Oh, here comes the friendly fair worker!

He’s helping me buckle that crotch buckle I forgot.

Tha….did he just slide his hand up my leg whilst buckling the thing?

Did that happen? Was that an illusion? That could not be proven in a court of law.

Too close to call. Let’s do this!

The contraption lifts. It spins. That noise! It’s like the crank you’d expect on the rack.


This doesn’t feel safe.

And we’re moving up and down.

And I could fly out of this loosely buckled seat at any moment, and so could these children around me.


I’m flyin’. I’m flyin’! I’m kickin’ up my cowgirl boots. I’m a kid again. I’m a kid again!

Spandex, turkey legs, animal births. Illusions, midriffs, things that flip. Smiles, cotton candy, show horses. Touts, beauty queens, creepers, cops, cowboys, Indians

Ya know. America.

Look away. I dare ya!

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Okla Home Grown Art for Eli

Artist Sean Vali happened to call the newsroom while I was working at night, when I answer the newsroom-wide phone line. We chatted about a story. And then I convinced him to donate art to benefit research that could save my son’s life.

Continue reading Okla Home Grown Art for Eli

4 stops you won’t find on the Oklahoma City segway tour

For a year and a half, I’ve been getting to know my new city a disaster at a time.

Here are four stops you’re not going to find on any Oklahoma City segway tour.

And I’ll spare you the details!

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I’ve learned that when Mark asks, “What’d you do today?” he actually doesn’t want to know. That’s why reporters talk reporter talk with other reporters in our own special little reporter language.

It’s the same at places like cop shops, hospital break rooms, fire departments and the morgue.

I have a good friend from my last outlet. We give each other a ring now and again to talk industry talk. He covered Sandy Hook when Eli was in the hospital. That’s why I really tried to hold it together when he called to congratulate Mark and I, having spotted on Twitter that I was out on maternity leave. I could tell he was looking for some good news, excited to talk about a new kid. Eli is great news — but we were in the hospital and Eli had a deadly disease…so….yeah. My friend was positive. He seemed to recall a friend of his with CF. The friend went somewhere Ivy for college, joined a jazz band and also became a wildly successful business person. He assured me he did more in just his early years than most people do in a lifetime. The CF didn’t stop him.

Sandy Hook is almost too terrible to believe. My friend is from the town. His daughter goes to school two miles from where the massacre happened. In fact, as the media swarmed, he walked inside a restaurant to interview the locals.

“Why don’t you just go home?” the woman asked him.

“I am home.” he said.

Best comeback ever.

National media get so annoying when disaster strikes your hometown. I learned this first hand, when they were given special celeb tours while we were getting kicked off of public streets in Moore, while trying to gather news for our community after a tornado struck our community.

Even so, I mixed it up with a national TV producer while sitting outside of Moore City Hall. I had been chasing the medical examiner spokeswoman. I was exhausted. Sat down on a bench. Sighed a sigh to end all sighs.

We started chatting, recognizing we were both media. Instantly, we discovered the other was a smart ass. An amiable smart ass!

“Ugh, you national media, bragging about your exclusives! It’s too much!”

“Actually,” he said conspiratorially, referencing a special tour of the hardest-hit disaster zone, “I’m the one who set that up.”

All he had to do was name drop the famous anchor and say what the famous anchor wanted.

“Yeah. Figures.”

He was just doing his job. Just like I was doing mine. The big guys have the star power. It’s just how it is.

“Today, though. What’s the story?”

He was looking for the next story.

“The story? It’s the people,” I said.

I told him about the Oklahoma standard. It’s the get-up-and-go people have after disasters here. They pick up, and they help their neighbors. Disasters happen here again and again — wildfires, tornadoes.

Then there’s the 1995 bombing.

A lot of people I work with here covered it. They saw terrible things. One hundred sixty eight violent deaths, the work of a terrorist’s bomb. And the whole city picked itself backed up again. The city moved forward, its people helping one another along the way. The bombing left a scar that has been turned into a beautiful memorial downtown. It’s a shared experience that binds the people here together.

The bombing: It's carried in the hearts of the OKC people....and on the segway tour.
The bombing: It’s carried in the hearts of the OKC people.

The national producer wasn’t too interested in my post-tornado Oklahoma standard pitch.

He waved it off.

“How about the dead animals at the farm down the road?” I offered.

That he could do.

We went our separate ways.

I caught the medical examiner’s office spokeswoman in the parking lot of city hall for the latest update on the number of dead at the morgue.

At my office, we spent weeks find out out who these people were before their lives were snuffed out by the monster.

So, no, I don’t go home and divulge the details of my day over the dinner table or to my family members or friends.

You really don’t want to know what mommy was up to today, children!

That’s OK. A little mystery can’t hurt.

I go home and I hug my little people tight. Every day, a new story, a new reminder: Life can change in a moment.


Great strides, great times

Mark, Laila, Eli and I did our first Great Strides Walk, a fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

I’ll say more later – gotta take a nap before I head to work tonight.

Below are our pics.

We ended up raising $1,000.

I was really happy with that for a first effort – thanks everyone! We are so behind on thank you notes. Forthcoming, I swear! This weekend…time off. Almost here!

I saw a lot of families that got really into it, getting sponsors, setting up lawn-chair camps, etc. Some teams had over 100 people walking. I met some cool people and can’t wait to learn more about them!

Everyone with CF wears a bracelet.
Everyone with CF wore a bracelet at the walk, which is actually done because CFers are supposed to stay six feet apart to avoid cross infection. Eli probably didn’t need to – he was covered up in his stroller. I just put it on because it was cute!

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Stalking Wayne Coyne and other things to do in OKC

My friends Leslie and Ryan stopped by OKC en route to Chicago. They’re moving there from California to be closer to family. Leslie is with child!

We stopped by the Oklahoma City National Memorial, the museum and memorial dedicated to the victims of the 1995 Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing. Then we stalked Wayne Coyne, The Flaming Lips frontman, visiting his (or is it his ex-wife’s?) Womb Gallery and OKC house. We also ate amazing burgers at S&B’s and ate cupcakes. Here is the photographic evidence:

First-timers to Oklahoma City should definitely check out the Oklahoma City National Memorial.
First-timers to Oklahoma City should definitely check out the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

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"We search for the truth. We seek justice..."
“We search for the truth. We seek justice…”

The frontman for The Flaming Lips lives in an Oklahoma City neighborhood.
The frontman for The Flaming Lips lives in an Oklahoma City neighborhood.

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Just because, here are a few pieces of Leslie and Ryan’s New Year’s letter. They mailed it late, to the wrong address. It was sent back to them. Then they brought it to our front door.

“Here’s our inaugural holiday newsletter. A tradition that will live on for decades or fizzle out with laziness. Time will tell!”

“It only took us six years to finally take part in the Bay to Breakers spectacle, a running/inebriated walking festival in San Francisco. Ryan came close to finishing the 12K course, but lost his group and energy in Golden Gate Park. Leslie slept in and then went to the bar with friends. It was a hazy weekend.”

“In early summer, we’re expecting another adventure-seeking, live-music lovin’ rascal to join our team. Surprise! Nico the cat will be joined by a human sibling.”

Of course, it was signed peace & love.

Peace and love to you, Leslie and Ryan, and to all of our friends making their way in this big, wide exciting world.