Critically injured in a motorcycle crash, Kammey Bagwell didn’t hesitate with her decision.
When told by doctors that she would spend the rest of her life — perhaps 4 of 5 years — as a quadriplegic and would need a ventilator to breathe, Bagwell indicated that she wanted to donate her organs.
Bagwell, 40 years old and a deeply religious woman, was ready.
“She wanted it done instantly,” said her mother, Neta Acuna. “She wanted to go home.”
A year later, Bagwell’s selfless resolve is not forgotten.
“She was the bravest patient I had ever seen,” said Tasha Horton, manager of hospital donation services at LifeGift, the designated organ procurement organization for the area. “She had no fear in her eye. I will always remember her.”
The crash happened on April 30, and Bagwell soon learned of her prognosis as a quadriplegic. Her mother said Bagwell was told about the ventilator and that her organs would eventually fail. A doctor asked her if she wanted to live that way.
“She was lucid and he says, ‘Do you want to stay or do you want to go home?’ ” Acuna recalled. “And she indicated she wanted to go home.”
“She told doctors to take her off the ventilator,” Acuna said.
Because Bagwell was an organ donor — she signed up in 2010 — Horton was called in to talk to her on May 2. Bagwell was adamant about going forward with the donation.
“We did speak to her,” Horton said. “She was able to communicate by nodding her head yes and no. She communicated without any fear that she wanted to donate her organs after she passed away.”
She died on May 2.
On Wednesday, Bagwell’s family — her mother, her son, Keeten Bagwell, and her fiance, Mike Parsons — met the recipient of one of her kidneys for the first time.
Fighting back tears, Acuna had one simple request: “Take good care of that kidney because I love it.”
‘I got my life back’
Dwight Douglas, 67, who received the kidney, promised that he would.
“It’s like a whole new life not to have to deal with dialysis, so you can be assured I’m going to take care of Kammey’s kidney,” Douglas said. “Compared to all of the other things I have to do that will be an easy job.”
Before Wednesday, Douglas had only known that his organ donor was female. He knew nothing else about Bagwell, a mother of three who lived in Azle and worked for a Decatur gastroenterologist.
Douglas had been on dialysis since August 2014.
A licensed psychological associate who worked with developmentally disabled patients, Douglas had seen his life dramatically curtailed because of treatments.
Now that’s all changed.
“It’s wonderful,” Douglas said. “I got my life back.”
The meeting occurred at Texas Health Fort Worth, where Douglas received his new kidney, as the hospital added 121 names to its Wall of Life ceremony. The event is held every April as part of National Donate Life Month.
On Friday, Bagwell’s family will take part in a ceremony at John Peter Smith Hospital, where she made the organ donation. She will be honored in a rotating electronic slide show at the hospital.
‘The bike just locked up’
Motorcycle deaths occur 27 times more frequently than other vehicle fatalities, according to 2014 data studied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
And Parsons said Bagwell was well aware of the risks of riding a motorcycle.
But the couple loved to go for rides on his bike and on April 30, they had a rare day away from the kids.
They went to lunch at Boo-Rays in Hudson Oaks near Weatherford and then decided to head out to Possum Kingdom Lake. They packed a change of clothes with the thought of spending the night near the lake.
“But we were on the wrong side of the lake for a hotel,” Parsons said. “ So I said ‘Let’s go home.’ ”
They got gas in Perrin, then cut over to Texas 199, west of Springtown. Then suddenly something went wrong with Parsons’ motorcycle.
“The bike just locked up,” Parsons said. “It just took hard to the right and I stood on it trying to brake it.”
They crashed and were both injured, but Bagwell’s injuries were much more serious. She had a broken neck.
They were placed in the ambulance and quickly realized the gravity of her injury.
“She said ‘I can’t breathe,’ ” Parsons said. “She knew at that point it was pretty bad.”
Parsons, who hurt his hand and had a minor neck injury, was taken to Texas Health Fort Worth while Bagwell went to John Peter Smith Hospital.
The first night in the hospital doctors would have to resuscitate Bagwell after her heart stopped.
Bagwell’s mother was with her when she died two days later.
“She smiled at me and it was like she saw the Lord coming to get her,” Acuna said. “I told her: ‘Kammey. I love you. I’ll see you there. And she was gone.’ ”