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Injured soldier recovers at home

Gillsville man spent months in hospitals

POSTED: August 13, 2008 5:01 a.m.
Scott Rogers/The Times

Nathon Bagwell recalls getting seriously injured while serving in Iraq while his father, Wayne, left, listens Friday afternoon at his Gillsville home. Bagwell just has returned home after spending months in various hospitals recovering from injuries.

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GILLSVILLE — Three and a half months after he was injured in battle, Pvt. Nathon Bagwell, 24, spent the night in his own bed Thursday.

Once his family removed the door frame and his wheelchair could fit in his bedroom, Bagwell reveled in the privacy he had not had in a long time.

"I shut the door, and it was nice, quiet," he said.

If he had not been shot in Sadr City months ago, Bagwell may not have had that kind of privacy until next spring. The U.S. Army soldier’s homecoming from Iraq was scheduled for March 2009.

Bagwell was a casualty of the violence in Sadr City in late April.

"I guess I was standing when I should have been kneeling," Bagwell says.

The statement — a response to a question about what he had been doing when a bullet entered the left side of his stomach and exited through the lower right side of his back — makes his family laugh now that Bagwell is safe at home.

On April 27, Bagwell and his unit had been constructing barriers that would help control traffic coming in and out of the Baghdad suburb, when a bullet ripped through the left side of his abdomen, shattering four vertebrae in his lower back and damaging his intestines and kidneys.

He was the only American injured that day.

When he was shot, Bagwell said he did not realize he had been shot in the abdomen. He only knew that his back hurt.

Bagwell kept telling those around him that he could not move or feel his legs, but the sergeant who pulled him into his Bradley Fighting Vehicle made Bagwell say that he was not paralyzed. Then he would make him repeat it.

"I believe that’s the reason that you believed that you could walk and that you can walk and that you will walk," his mother, Carolyn Bagwell, told him Thursday.

In the months that followed, Nathon Bagwell endured multiple surgeries in Baghdad, Germany, Washington, D.C., and Augusta, and he is still waiting on one more surgery that will reconstruct his ureter in September.

Before returning to Gillsville on Thursday, Bagwell spent one month at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and two months at Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta.

During that time, his mother and father, Wayne Bagwell, divided their parental duties between taking care of their hospitalized son and their other children at home in Gillsville.

In the middle of Nathon Bagwell’s stay in Augusta, his younger brother, Jeremy, had to have emergency surgery to remove his gall bladder.

Suddenly, Carolyn and Wayne Bagwell had two sons to watch over in two separate hospitals.

"I said God was trying to teach me he didn’t need me. He could take care of all of them by himself," Carolyn Bagwell said. "Because I couldn’t be in two places at one time."

Thursday was the first time in months that Carolyn and Wayne Bagwell had all their children under one roof.

"It was lovely, I enjoyed it so much," Carolyn Bagwell said.

On Friday, the family went to the home of Carolyn Bagwell’s mother, returning to their normal routine of a Friday night family dinner.

Now that he is home from the hospital, Bagwell hopes his next step will be to get out of his wheelchair.

He can move his left leg, but his right leg from the knee down is not as quick to come around. Bagwell has been told to view the nerve pain and the spasms in his right shin as a sign of hope.

"They say it’s a good sign," Bagwell said. "I don’t know; it hurts pretty well."

Doctors told Bagwell his chances of walking are good, but it is possible that his leg may not fully recover.

He says he can deal with having to walk with a cane as long as he is walking. He’d pick out two or three different ones.

"I hope to be walking again fine," Bagwell said. "Even a limp, I’d be alright with it — have a cane.

"I think it’d be pretty cool to have a cane, kind of like (TV character physician Gregory) House."

Sometime in the future, Bagwell will travel to Colorado to receive a Purple Heart for his injury, but he wants his unit to be back from Iraq before the Army gives it to him.

Although his future with the U.S. Army is uncertain, Bagwell said he has no regrets.

"It’s the best Army in the world."



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