Joplin tornado survivor reflects on approaching 10 year anniversary

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JOPLIN, Mo. — Joplin will observe ten years since the 2011 tornado in a matter of days. But for one local survivor – it’s a memory he’d just as soon forget.

Matt Stephens lost a lot on May 22nd, 2011. And that triggered a series of challenges he’s still facing today.

Matt Stephens, Tornado Survivor, said, “And I heard the wind pickup looked out the window so I part of a roof flyby,

And then Matt Stephens says it was like his whole house exploded and he went airborne.

“Hit with debris left and right and all over the place, screaming so loud, but I couldn’t hear myself scream.”

Matt was unconscious for the next four days, eventually waking up at a hospital more than 150 miles away.

“With my leg gone as well as many other injuries.”

His recovery wouldn’t be easy or quick.

“The struggles with that revealed themselves later as the leg healed, and I would have to have prosthetic after prosthetic after prosthetic.”

He had to relearn how to walk and continues to struggle with chronic pain and to effectively treat it.

“They’ve overcorrected on the whole opioid epidemic. I mean, yes, there is a problem, but for people like myself and you plenty of others need medication to help. We’re left with nothing.”

Matt is using his experience to help others, specifically counseling other amputees about what to expect.

“Almost feels like it helps me more than helps them, because, you know, I’m telling them, I’m relating to them the issues that they’re going to go through in life further.”

And while he’s still dealing with his losses ten years later, Matt is still grateful.

“But I’m fortunate that, you know, I’ve, I’ve got that I’ve got my life. So many people didn’t.”

Matt is also focusing on mental health care – advocating for more and better treatment for survivors whose lives will never be the same. He says he plans to hunker down on May 22nd this year and more focused on May 23rd and getting past that milestone date.

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