June 11, 2012 12:00 PM


MASON LILLARD, 11 saved by Dr. Ray Vetsch

She blacked out before an iron bar pierced her lung. But Mason Lillard vividly recalls last May 22, when the Joplin, Mo., tornado crushed the truck she was in with her cousin Lage and their grandma. She prayed, sang a Carrie Underwood song and “saw two angels, one with blonde hair, the other with brown,” says the fifth-grader. “Firefighters cut the bar, and it hurt like 500 bees stinging.”

Cardiac surgeon Ray Vetsch, who removed the bar, says that Mason had “the most horrid injury of the night.” She spent a week in a medically induced coma, had 11 surgeries and took antibiotics for six months to fight infection. Vetsch credits Mason’s will to hold on. “To have that kind of drive is just phenomenal,” he says. Today she is looking forward to “camping, swimming, jumping on the trampoline.” In other words: a normal summer.



saved by Tracy Dye, RN

In triage, those “black tagged” include both the dead and patients whose injuries are so bad, saving them is not practical. Lage Grigsby’s cousin Mason was rushed to surgery and his grandmother Sharon Lillard survived uninjured, but after being sucked through the window of the truck, he was black tagged in a morgue with a fractured skull oozing brain matter. Freeman Hospital West ER nurse Tracy Dye spotted the boy who resembled her own son safe at home and touched his cold arm. “He opened one eye and let out a scream you can’t forget,” she says. She grabbed a doctor and jumped the line to get a brain scan. After surgery, doctors warned it could be 18 months before Lage, paralyzed on one side, could begin to relearn speech and movement. Instead, five weeks later, he was released. Along the way came words: “K” for okay, then “Hi” to relieved mom Jessica. He still has some paralysis, but today the one-time bike daredevil rides a three-wheeler to school and says, “I want to have my right ankle working so I can drive.”

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