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Wounded Hall soldier recovering after surgery

Pvt. Nathon Bagwell shot in Iraq earlier this week

POSTED: May 13, 2008 5:00 a.m.
For The Times/

Pvt. Nathon Bagwell waits with his parents in Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport before he returned to Iraq on March 26 - his 24th birthday.

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An Army soldier from Hall County is recovering from his third surgery after a sniper shot him in Iraq five days ago.

Pvt. Nathon Bagwell, 24, is back in an intensive care unit in Germany after doctors performed surgery to repair a shattered vertebra in his lower spine.

Bagwell, a 2003 graduate from East Hall High School, was breathing with the help of a ventilator as he recovered from the eight-hour surgery where doctors placed a steel rod in his back Thursday afternoon, his mother said.

"Really, we don’t know much more except he’s made it through surgery, and he will probably not make it on Friday’s plane," said Carolyn Bagwell, Nathon Bagwell’s mother.

Nathon Bagwell had been on a barrier detail in Sadr City when a sniper’s bullet pierced the left side of his stomach Sunday, damaging his bowels and kidneys before shattering a vertebra in his lower spine. The critical injury came five months into the soldier’s 15-month tour in Iraq, and three days after a Commerce native, Army Staff Sgt. Shaun J. Whitehead, was killed in Iskandariyah, Iraq.

Whitehead was the same age as Nathon Bagwell.

Carolyn Bagwell, who awaits updates from her home in Gillsville, had not yet spoken with a doctor about the specifics of her son’s surgery, and she has not been told whether the injury means her son is paralyzed.

But Carolyn Bagwell takes comfort in the fact that her son was able to wiggle his toes in a therapy session Wednesday.

She is also soothed by the two small conversations she has had with him. Early Thursday morning, Nathon Bagwell spoke to his father and his mother before he was prepped for surgery.

"He just said that he loved us and that he would see us when he got ... home," Carolyn Bagwell said. "He was more alert (Thursday) than he was (Wednesday) when we talked with him."

While their son was in surgery, the Bagwells said they spoke with an Army sergeant who was with Nathon Bagwell at the moment he was shot.

The sergeant told Wayne and Carolyn Bagwell that the sniper who shot their son had been in the third floor of a building and that building had been leveled.

"The building’s no longer standing," Carolyn Bagwell said.

That knowledge gave the family a little more solace.

"Like Wayne said ... they probably got the sniper, too, and the sniper, at least he won’t be here to shoot nobody else," Carolyn Bagwel said. "So I’m kind of glad about that..."

Before Thursday’s surgery, Nathon Bagwell had already survived two others: one on his intestines and another on his kidneys. The Army 4th Infantry Division soldier is likely to undergo more surgery when he returns to the United States this weekend.

His family, including a younger brother and a younger sister, hoped they would get to meet him at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Friday, but it seems that his condition could keep him in Germany until Sunday.

Still, the Bagwell family stays hopeful.

If all goes well, Bagwell will once again be able to breathe on his own by today, and his family will leave Saturday to meet their wounded soldier in Washington, D.C.


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