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Tornado survivor Leo Muldoon gets back on his tractor seat

Joanne Schnurr, CTV News Ottawa
Published Monday, May 13, 2019 4:49PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, May 13, 2019 6:44PM EDT

Eight months ago, several tornadoes swept through Eastern Ontario, uprooting trees, flattening homes and injuring dozens of people. 

Dunrobin farmer Leo Muldoon was one of those injured when the barn he was on was ripped apart.  Muldoon has worked hard all his life.  Even when a tornado blew him off his barn, he was determined to get back on his tractor to plow his land.

The 78-year-old is not one to waste time.  So, he’s taking the short cut on this road to recovery; working hard to get back to where he was, back to the farm and the life he loves.

Muldoon has been coming to Liquid Gym in Ottawa’s west, working in a pool where the buoyancy frees his body of pain as he struggles to strengthen his muscles, using free weights and an underwater treadmill.

“No pain at all,” he says with a smile, as he works with his physiotherapist.

Muldoon has been doing re-hab at Liquid Gym since November, just two months after those tornadoes swept through Eastern Ontario and West Quebec.  Muldoon was on his barn in Dunrobin, fixing a piece of tin on the roof, when the tornado hit him from behind.

Not that he remembers, “I miss that part,” he joked in hospital in November, when he was first interviewed by CTV Ottawa, “because I was flippity-flop.”

There were five barns on the Muldoon property the day the tornado hit, all of them flattened; including the one Leo Muldoon was on.  He recalls sheet metal flying over his head as he lay on the ground waiting for help.

It was touch and go for a bit.  Muldoon had suffered 7 cracked ribs and two collapsed lungs. 

“At that point, I wasn’t sure he was going to make it through that night,” recalls his wife Adele.

But make it, he has.  After weeks in the trauma unit at the Ottawa Hospital, then several more weeks at Elizabeth Bruyere, he started to do rehab at Liquid Gym.  Karen Snyder is Liquid Gym’s owner.

“He came in with walker,” she recalls, “hunched over, taking two inch steps and as soon as we got into the pool, things started to change.”

Now, the walker is gone and so is the cane. 

“What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get out of here?” Muldoon was asked in hospital in November by CTV.  “See if I can get on my tractor.”

Sporting the t-shirt his daughter made for him, “It takes more than a gust of wind to keep this guy down,” he reads, Muldoon is back in the tractor seat and he’s already got the barley in the ground.

“Thought I’d get her planted,” he says with a chuckle, “and then the rain came so all it has to do is grow.”

As for the tornado, the road ahead doesn’t include that.

The Muldoons are talking about replacing their flattened barn with something called a “Cover-All.”   It’s round so Leo won’t have to climb the ladder ever again to fix the roof.  He jokes to his wife Adele that he’s been grounded.

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