Wife of Heartland Midwest worker opens up about husband's severe injuries from JJ's explosion
5:34 PM, Mar 20, 2013
3:40 PM, Apr 2, 2013
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Crystal Tanner says her husband, Heartland Midwest worker Mike Tanner, is a family man and never misses his children's wrestling meets, gymnastic meets or baseball games.
So on February 19, when Mike didn't show up on time to his daughter's school music program, Crystal already had a feeling something was wrong.
Crystal then received a phone call from one of Mike's coworkers, asking if Mike was hurt.
When Crystal told the man she didn't know what he was talking about, he told her he didn't want to scare her. He said he would find out more information and call her back.
Her daughter had just taken the stage when the co-worker called again. He told her Mike was involved in an explosion and was seriously hurt.
"It was just ... what do you do? My daughter was singing at the very front on stage," Crystal said.
Not wanting to frighten her 8-year-old daughter, Crystal waited for the program to finish, gathered her two kids and drove around looking for St. Luke's Hospital.
Unable to find the hospital, she went to the site of the explosion.
"I stopped my car in the middle of the intersection where they had it blocked off and ran up to a police officer and said, ‘I think my husband is involved in this explosion can you please help me find him,'" Crystal recalled.
She said she stood in the cold waiting for about 30 minutes before police told her they didn't have any names of the injured at the scene. They gave her directions to St. Luke's and told her some people had actually walked to that hospital.
With that hope, she walked in the doors of the hospital and was immediately escorted by a police officer to a family waiting area.
"It was super scary. Every single TV in the whole entire hospital had that explosion on it," Crystal said.
Unsure if anyone could have survived, Crystal started preparing her children for the worst.
Nurses then came in and asked Crystal if she could provide them with information about any identifying marks or jewelry Mike may have been wearing. Her 15-year-old son remembered Mike was wearing an orange bracelet supporting his wrestling team.
"That's how we located him because his pants had been completely burned off of him," Crystal said.
Crystal learned Mike's injuries were severe. He had a broken clavicle, fractured vertebra, fractured ribs and doctors had to remove Mike's spleen. He also had burns to his hands, legs and stomach.
Over the next week, Crystal estimates Mike underwent seven major surgeries. Some lasted as long as seven and eight hours.
"It's the waiting and the unpredictability of his injuries. Burns are so unpredictable. The trauma he had was so unpredictable," said Crystal.
The couple celebrated their anniversary in the hospital two days after the explosion, bringing new meaning to their vows.
"This is definitely the worse, but I am really lucky he's alive," said Crystal.
Crystal asks for everyone to continue to keep her husband and all of those injured in their thoughts and prayers.
Mike helped coach his son's baseball team. Members of that team have set up a fund to help the family handle the financial hardship of the explosion. For more information on their fundraising efforts, visit www.bald4charity.com.