Baby Duke’s mom tells story of surviving Oso mudslide
Duke Suddarth and his mom, Amanda Skorjanc, are recovering and thankful to be alive after being thrown around in the Oso mudslide.
“I thought I wasn’t going to make it, so I’m feeling good,” Skorjanc said from her bed at Harborview Medical Center on Wednesday.
For the first time, the mother of baby Duke, 6 months old, is talking about what happened on March 22.
“Duke and I were watching YouTube videos in our kitchen and I heard what sounded like a truck on a rumble strip … I thought well maybe it’s an earthquake. The lights started to shake, they started to blink. I looked out our side door and I didn’t see anything. And then I looked out our front door and it was like a movie – houses were exploding. The next thing I remember, or see, is our neighbor’s chimney coming in through our front door. I turned and held Duke and I did not let him go … It got dark around us. It was throwing us all over the place. The feeling was violent. It was very strong and very violent. Finally, when we stopped, I was like, what just happened. I don’t understand what just happened. ”
Skorjanc tried to explain what she heard, but emotions took over. “It sounded like a thick river of mud – it was loud, your whole core just shook.”
“I will never get it out of my head. Certain sounds now trigger it,” Skorjanc said.
Things like the wind or a passing hospital bed will trigger her memories and the overwhelming emotions.
Skorjanc was by herself that Saturday morning. Her boyfriend, Ty, had just left to run to the hardware store in Darrington.
She doesn’t know exactly what hit them because she turned her body to shield her son.
“I held on to that baby like it was the only purpose that I had,” Skorjanc said. “I know that God was with us because I cried out to him ‘Please save us.'”
When they finally stopped moving, Skorjanc said that she noticed that the couch and Lazy Boy had been broken around them, and that they were in a little cushioned pocket.
“We had very little debris above us, just a piece of ceiling and a few 2x4s, but my legs were trapped from the knees down,” she said. “I figured if I put the pillow outside of this hole and put Duke on it – if I didn’t make it, they’d find him. But I couldn’t move him because my arm was too broken to move it. So I just sat there with him and waited.”
Skorjanc said sitting in the cold mud with her baby and trying to understand what had just happened was not like anything we know in real life. She said she was focused on her son.
“He was dirty and a little blue. I thought I was losing him. I’d give him little sternum rubs and I’d pat him on his chest and say ‘Stay with me, bud’ and then I’d ask God not to take him in front of me,” Skorjanc said.
“I’ll never forget the image of him just laying with me. That will stay with me forever.”
Skorjanc said she believes they found her in a pocket of trees about 600 feet away from where her home used to stand.
“I started to hear sirens – the most amazing sound I’ve ever heard.”
And then Skorjanc said she could hear men screaming, trying to search for survivors.
“As soon as I heard that voice, I knew that he (Duke) was going to be OK. As soon as I heard him scream, I screamed, and that would cause Duke to cry. So while I was catching my breath, Duke was crying. I stuck my hand out where we had this little area of space available,” she said.
Her rescuers immediately took Duke, but then they had to cut her out of the couch and chair with a chainsaw. Skorjanc said they yanked her out of the pile because her legs were stuck.
Skorjanc was transported in a sheriff’s helicopter and then taken to Cascade Valley Hospital in an ambulance. She said she never looked back. She had her eyes closed the entire time.
“I didn’t want to see what was going on down there, plus I was just scared and in so much pain.”
Now, Skorjanc said she’s struggling with her emotions and working on her feelings of guilt.
“I’m so blessed and at the same time, I feel, and I know I shouldn’t, but I feel guilty. I have my family and some don’t.”
The best times now, for Skorjanc, are when she gets to hold her son, warm and recovering. She has seen him a few times.
“It’s so amazing to hold him again.”
Both Skorjanc and Duke are in satisfactory condition. Skorjanc suffered multiple fractures to her eye, arm, leg and ankle. She has undergone multiple surgeries. Duke is at Seattle Children’s for follow up care.