Ottawa mom critically injured in tornado now walking, hoping to go home

Joanne Schnurr, CTV Ottawa

CTV News Exclusive

An Ottawa hockey mom, at death's door after those tornadoes swept through our region, is making a slow but surprising recovery.

Shari Rochon, who was impaled by a flying glass door is talking and walking now and hoping to be home by Christmas. The 49-year-old says she will never forget the sound of the tornado as it hit the Dunrobin Mall and the images of debris flying around her and at her.

She'll also never forget the kindness of strangers who jumped into action to save her life.

You can forgive Shari Rochon if she's a little superstitious.  The blanket on her hospital bed at the Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre, for instance, crocheted by a dear friend, is with her always now.  She calls it her healing blanket.

“And it’s working,” she says, “I sleep with it every night.”

There are some powerful things at play in Shari Rochon's recovery.  In fact, six weeks ago, on September 21st, she had no idea how this would all play out.

“I thought I was dying,” she recalls, “I truly did.”

Shari was inside the Dunrobin mall that day.  Her 14-year-old son Jack waited in the car while she ran in to get ice cream for both of them.  It is a decision that saved his life but nearly took hers.

“I remember standing at the counter to order my ice cream cones,” she says, “and that's when it just, it was just flying. It just happened so quick.”

Shari caught the full force of the tornado.  A glass door flew off and impaled her side.

“They had to remove her spleen,” says Shari’s sister Helen, “It tore the muscles and shattered her spine.”

“I was screaming, “My son, my son!” says Rochon.  She had no idea what had happened to young Jack and whether her car had been destroyed along with the Dunrobin mall.

Fortunately Jack was fine but traumatized by what he saw.  An army medic happened to be in the store that day and rushed to help her, contacting his wife a few blocks away who also had medical training.

“Had Kevin not been at the store, we wouldn't be standing here today,” says Helen.

And clearly neither would Shari.  After a week in a coma, and 3 surgeries back to back, she is inching her way to a full recovery.  She is walking with a walker down the halls of the Rehab Centre, on her way to a physio appointment, her sister and husband Ian Clyne in tow.

“We love her and we need her in our family and we're so lucky she's with us,” says Ian.

Shari says she is determined to walk out of here in time to decorate the tree for Christmas.

“I'm the only one who likes to decorate the tree,” Shari laughs, “I'm a little worried about the Christmas tree.”

Rochon still has one more surgery to go to repair her side where the glass door ripped into her.  But that's still a year away.  Right now, her focus is on getting stronger and getting home