By Connor Lynch
DUNROBIN — Ottawa’s devastating cavalcade of tornadoes in September tore through the city and nearly ended one farmer’s life.
But 78-year-old Leo Muldoon pulled through, despite the twister hurling him through the air. When he landed, both lungs had collapsed and he’d broken seven ribs. On Oct. 25, more than one month later, he was still in hospital.
Muldoon had no idea a tornado was headed his way on Sept. 21 when he was moving hay in one of his sheds, near Dunrobin, west of urban Ottawa. He heard some rattling on the tin roof, so he pulled out the ladder, and up he went, about 20 feet. That’s when the wind whipped up, swirling and howling.
“I’m getting down,” he told himself but didn’t make it. A huge gust tossed him and his ladder 20 feet through the air. “I did two spins and a half twist,” he chuckled from his hospital bed.
The tornado that struck Dunrobin and later Ottawa tore through the barn and the other four sheds in the area, scattering broken boards and twisted tin. They toppled around and all over Muldoon. He lay there, breathing and conscious but gripped by pain and unable to move, thinking: “How am I gonna get up?”
In Dunrobin, the storm damaged 53 homes according to the Ottawa Sun, and over half will need to be rebuilt. Almost 200,000 people were without power the day after.
A concerned neighbour, Carlos, drove up to check on Muldoon and found him lying among the scattered planks. He called 9-1-1. Arriving at the Ottawa Civic Hospital’s emergency unit, Muldoon was immediately hooked up to oxygen. A doctor told Muldoon’s wife, Adele, that the entire family should visit that night. “That scared me,” she said.
Muldoon couldn’t speak for over a week. He had a tube down his throat, and was hooked up to a ventilator. He managed to communicate with a combination of facial expression, squeezing hands and lipreading. There were lots of visitors, including “the guard,” said Muldoon with a smile. He meant his fellow euchre players, Adele explained.
Communication outside the hospital had been flying much faster. Adele said she’d been told that the nearby Carp Fair had been abuzz with rumours on the day of the tornado, with everyone saying: “Leo Muldoon had been sucked out of his tractor and was dead.”
The former beef farmer, who sold his cow-calf herd in the spring to crop 100 acres, was looking forward to getting back in the tractor. On Oct. 17, nearly a month after the accident, he was feeling alright as he lay in a hospital bed. “But when I run…” he chuckled. He can walk for short stints with a walker.
Nearly a month later, Leo was still in hospital, though he had been transferred to the Elisabeth Bruyere hospital in Ottawa for physical rehabilitation. His family hoped to have him home before the end of November. Adele considers his recovery nothing short of a miracle. “Wouldn’t you say it’s a miracle, Leo?”