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Wounded soldier back in Georgia

Gillsville man injured in Iraq recovers in Augusta

POSTED: June 5, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Nearly one month after he was injured in Iraq, a soldier from Gillsville has made it back to Georgia.

Pvt. Nathon Bagwell is now recovering from a gunshot wound he received in an April 27 attack on his platoon in Sadr City at Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta.

While he receives treatment for the damage done to his spine, Bagwell will be honored at Memorial Park Cemetery’s Memorial Day ceremony today, but it will be his grandfather, his brother Jeremy Bagwell and sister Holly Bagwell who pick up the award for the wounded soldier, his mother said Saturday.

The 2003 graduate of East Hall High School has undergone numerous surgeries to repair the damage done when an enemy’s bullet pierced the left side of his stomach, damaged his intestines and his left kidney and shattered a vertebra in his lower spine.

Little by little, Bagwell has made progress. His mother, Carolyn Bagwell, said her son is learning to sit up on his own again.

The first day Nathon Bagwell tried, he sat up for a minute and a half.

Saturday, he sat in a wheelchair for nearly five hours before returning to the hospital bed.

"He can brush his teeth; he shaves with an electric shaver; he feeds himself — anything — from the waist up, he can do anything he wants to," Carolyn Bagwell said.

Sitting up is the first step on the long road to the rest of Nathon Bagwell’s recovery.

Later this week, the therapists and doctors at the Augusta hospital will tell the Bagwell family what sort of paralysis Bagwell will go home with. Carolyn Bagwell said sensation has returned to her son’s legs, but the ability to move them has not.

"They’ll tell us how long we’ll be here and how long the therapy will be here before he gets to come home," she said.

On Tuesday, doctors will remove a catheter to see if Nathon Bagwell’s kidneys are strong enough to empty without the help of the tube.

When he regains his strength, Bagwell will face another, 10-hour surgery that will reconnect his bladder and his left kidney, but his mother said that surgery will have to wait for another two to three months.

Until then, Bagwell has a bag outside of his body that is connected to that left kidney.

The Bagwells were transferred to the Augusta hospital from Washington D.C.’s Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Wednesday morning — a move that makes it easier for family members to visit him.

Doctors at Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center will assist Bagwell in the recovery from his spinal injuries, Carolyn Bagwell said.

"They told us at Walter Reed that this is the best spinal unit they have, so this is why we’re here," Carolyn Bagwell said. "We’ll just have to wait to see how good I think it is."

The hospital, which only allows the family to visit Bagwell from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., is a change for Carolyn Bagwell, who spent every night with her son while he was in Washington, D.C., for two and one-half weeks.

"We break the rules, and come on over earlier and sometimes at night we break them and stay later," she said of the adjustment. "But they don’t let us stay over."

But it is easier for Carolyn Bagwell to sleep at night now that she sees her son’s progress is sure, however slow it may be.

"He looks good," Carolyn Bagwell said. "Today’s the first day he actually put on his Georgia Bulldog hat. ... He’s getting back to himself."


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