By: Tammy Andrews
It’s funny how particular events will stand out in your mind and remain plastered there throughout your lifetime. It is with a sad heart that I bring you this story. It one of a beautiful person who fought many battles throughout her short life. She will forever be known as one of life’s greatest warriors to me…
In 2009, I covered an accident when I was working for the Clay Times-Journal that I will never forget. The one-vehicle accident occurred on Thursday, May 21 around 9:00 PM. After receiving the call that I needed to go get a picture, I set out with my camera in hand to Crooked Creek Bridge area on Hwy 49S, where the accident scene was filled with rescue and volunteer workers, who were actively working to free the trapped occupant.
Working wrecks like that was always the worst part of the job for me, because I always felt it was a violation of privacy for the victims and their families, not to mention, because it was such a small town, I usually knew the victim(s). This time was no exception. To this day, I still hate working accident scenes.
I soon learned that the entrapped victim of the vehicle was Donna Kennedy, the sister of a friend of mine and a lady I knew and interacted with a great deal because she worked as a cashier at Fred’s.
While emergency personnel worked feverishly to free Donna, I sat and waited for my photo op, because I wasn’t going to take a picture while she was still entrapped in the mangled vehicle, just in case her injuries were life threatening.
Donna’s vehicle had come to rest basically “between a rock and a hard place”, I was told, because it had rolled on its side and was up against a tree in such a manner that tested the resourcefulness of the emergency personnel. This was a situation that if wasn’t handled appropriately, could result in even more injuries for Donna if failed. It was a task that would take hours to free her from the wreckage and all hands were needed.
Donna remained conscious within the confines of the wreckage while the vehicle had to be cut away from her piece by piece. CCRS President Ricky Farr referred to Donna as a “real trooper” because she was awake and talked to them the entire time. “I can’t imagine how she felt, being trapped that way, I’m sure she was scared to death but she kept talking”, said Farr.
A Lifesaver had been paged out and was waiting to fly her out. Omniflight personnel joined in the rescue, and as soon as they were able to get to her, still entrapped, did as much as an assessment of the patient. An IV was started and a backboard carefully put in place to free Donna from her nightmare. She was then flown out.
The entire ordeal lasted for 3 hours. Donna suffered several broken bones, including several ribs, both wrists, an arm and one leg, with many lacerations. Her recovery was a long one…one she never really fully came back from.
Donna and her children would have another accident approximately 2 years later, when a deer that ran out in front of her causing her to flip her vehicle. Donna would never drive again.
Neither of these incidents were the first time she had a brush with death. In 2004, complications from a gastric bypass surgery almost took her life. In fact, she crashed several times on the table and some afterward. Her situation was a very critical one, but she was finally sent home after a lengthy hospital stay with a long recovery ahead of her.
Through every ordeal she survived, she never lost her sense of humor or her sheer will to live. She loved life, her family, and her children, Whitney and Hannah, more than anything else in the world.
Just recently, Donna went to the ER very sick, with breathing issues. She was diagnosed with pneumonia and sent home with medication. But she didn’t get any better.
The next night she would have to return to the ER with serious breathing problems. She was transported to UAB and further tests revealed Donna had a hernia on small intestine, which was the site of a very bad infection. The infection had also traveled to her lungs as well. She was medically sedated and put on a breathing tube. She underwent a five-hour surgery the next day to remove the hernia and rid her body of the infection. Doctors informed the family this infection could have possibly stemmed from a suture of her botched gastric bypass surgery eleven years before.
After the surgery, Donna was placed in a medically induced coma to allow her body to heal and fight off the infection in her lungs. With every obstacle she had overcome in her life, this one was the worst.
Sadly, this was one Donna would not overcome. Tests revealed she had suffered a series of strokes, causing her brain to stop functioning. She was considered brain dead and placed on life support. The family was given no hope at all, leaving them with one of the most difficult choices any family could ever make.
As many of you already know, Donna Kennedy passed away yesterday afternoon, Friday, Aug. 7, 2015, after she was taken off of life support. She was just 39 years old. And with all that had happened to her throughout her life, I’d venture to say she now wears the brightest, most beautiful set of golden wings that sparkle throughout the heavens.
What can I say about Donna? Well, I didn’t know her as well as some did, but I can tell you that she had this quirky sense of humor that would keep you laughing. She was a matter of fact kind of person and would tell you exactly what she thought. Every time she checked me out at Fred’s, I would leave there smiling.
Donna’s death comes just two months after her granddaughter, Allie, was laid to rest after a very premature birth. This broke Donna’s heart, but it is one of the few things that brings comfort to her family to know she is up there with Allie now, watching over her.
Funeral services for Donna will be Wednesday, August 12, 2015 at 11:00 A.M. at Benefield Funeral Home in Ashland with Rev. Jim Wilcox and Rev. J. J. Burkhalter officiating. Burial will follow in the New Prospect Baptist Church Cemetery.
The family will receive friends at Benefield Funeral Home in Ashland on Tuesday, August 11 from 5:30 P.M. until 8:00 P.M. and until service time on Wednesday.
Donna had no life insurance. Clay County Cycle Club will host Benefit Bike Ride in her memory on September 19th. If anyone is interested in donating to the burial expenses, please contact Brady Pitts.
Rest easy, Donna, your fight is over and you will be sorely missed…