Tornado survivor reflects on recovery

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Storm survivors across the state are counting their blessings this holiday season, including Penny Anthony of Pleasant Grove, who was hurt so badly she's had to rely on others for help on her road to recovery.  What makes her story so compelling is that it used to be her job to help others.

"I just can't tell you all the miracles that have happened in my life because I was told by a doctor, the doctor that did surgery on my back, I'm not supposed to be here."

The doctors didn't think that Penny would survive April's tornado and no wonder,  because all that was left of her Pleasant Grove home was the foundation.

"Once the tornado hit, I am told that I was found about a block and a half away from my home.  I told them at that time my name and my son's name, his cell number, which I couldn't tell you right now and to bring me to UAB."

Penny knew that because she worked at UAB as a certified occupational therapy assistant.  But today she's a patient, soldering through an hour-long physical therapy session where she puts in hard, determined work.

Penny's injuries were grave and widespread, including a traumatic brain injury, a shattered left leg, and a spinal cord injury.  She was on a ventilator in intensive car for five weeks.  She doesn't even know how many surgeries she's undergone.  In spite of all that, she finds blessings.

"Something hit me across my face and tore my scalp back but I didn't have any eye injury, I mean to have been X-ed (Penny makes an X across her face) to have such severe injuries but no eye injury- It's a blessing."

Another blessing is how far Penny has come.  She takes tentative steps with a cane, which is a huge accomplishment when one considers where she was right after the storm.

"Not being able to do anything, nothing. Tell you the day of the week, the month, the year, not able to feed myself, wash my face, move. Uh, to being totally reliant just like a baby and being cared for by others."

Many of those caretakers are Penny's former colleagues.  She now calls them angels.

"It has opened my eyes to a patient's point of view while they're in rehab,to the other side of being a sympathetic therapist."

It's a new perspective that Penny hopes to use when she goes back to work.  But for now, she's taking it one step at a time; slow and steady on a long road to recovery.

"God has brought me so far and continues to. And the people who have prayed for me that never even knew me. Even Sunday somebody saying, oh, you're Penny. And I would say yes, I prayed for you."

Penny has come a long way, but she still has a tough road to full recovery ahead of her.  She's hoping to rebuild, but she'll need help.  Penny had insurance, but because she can't work, she doesn't have enough resources to rebuild and replace her belongings.

If you are interested in helping Penny, email her at