For Little Abby
A very, very difficult story to write. Death and life, all on Christmas. Here’s Abby’s story as I wrote it in The Newnan Times-Herald:
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
—I Corinthians 15: 53-55.
* * *
On Christmas Day, Abby Bacho was wheeled into the operating room at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston.
Afterward, the family was told the surgery was a success.
Three days later, the family held a funeral service for Abby at St. Mary Magdaline Catholic Church in Sharpsburg, where Abby had received her first communion two years earlier. Missing was Stephen Bacho, Abby’s father, who remains in critical condition in an induced coma at Atlanta Medical Center.
He did not know his middle daughter had died from injuries in the two-vehicle accident on Dec. 21 that also injured his wife, Natalie, his father-in-law and his two other daughters. Right after the accident, Stephen and Abby were airlifted to Atlanta hospitals.
“He didn’t know and that was the most difficult decision for Natalie,” said her sister, Susan Vega. “She couldn’t tell her life partner what was going on.”
Because of the severity of Stephen’s injuries, he still does not know what all has happened.
However, the operation was a success because Abby lives on, not only in memories, but physically.
The family decided to donate Abby’s organs. The transplant occurred on Christmas.
“God gave us his Son on Christmas to save us,” Vega said. “Now Abby has the same chance to help others. They told us all the organs were placed.”
Abby’s heart, kidneys, liver and corneas were transplanted, according to the family. Because of privacy laws, Abby’s loved ones do not know who received her organs.
The slogan used by organ donor organizations is “Donate the gift of life.” On Christmas Day, as Abby was fulfilling that slogan, a 12-year-old Carrollton boy received a new heart at Egleston.
The Bacho family is quite familiar with organ donations, hospitals and saving lives. Natalie is a former surgical nurse. Vega was an ICU nurse whose husband does heart surgery at Emory University.
“There was never a question about not doing it,” Vega said. “We always felt that would be the best if Abby didn’t pull through.”
The day after the accident, Dec. 22, doctors performed various tests on Abby. She was, tragically, brain dead. A second series 12 hours later showed the same results. The process of bringing in transplant surgeons and finding matching recipients began.
“This (organ donation) is not foreign to us,” Vega added. “We have friends who’ve had transplants and this was a way for Abby to help someone else.
“If anything, we hope this raises awareness about how transplants can save lives.”
* * *
On Dec. 21, the Bacho family, along with Butch Moore, Abby’s grandfather and Natalie’s dad, went out together.
First was roller skating at Starlight Family Fun Center, followed by Mass at St. Mary’s. The family ended the day by having dinner at the Redneck Gourmet in downtown Newnan. Afterward they headed home.
Natalie was driving, with her dad sitting beside her. They were in a Toyota Sienna van, with Stephen sitting behind Natalie. Taking up the rear seats were Abby, directly behind her dad, with her older sister, Hannah, next to her and 5-year-old sister, Charlotte, on the far side.
They were eastbound on Lower Fayetteville Road and were just entering the intersection with Newnan Crossing Bypass. A little after 8 p.m., a southbound full-size Silverado truck driven by Taylor Long, 18, ran a red light and crashed into the driver’s side of the Bachos’ van.
Long has since told police his brakes failed. Authorities are continuing to investigate the accident, and said Long will be charged with either misdemeanor or felony vehicular homicide, based on how the facts play out.
The impact spun the van 360 degrees, according to Newnan Police Department investigators.
Stephen and Abby were air-flighted to Atlanta hospitals. The others were taken to the local Piedmont Newnan Hospital.
Both Charlotte and Hannah, 11, were later transported to Egleston because of their injuries, Vega said. Hannah had a fractured pelvis and bruised lungs. She will be in a wheelchair or crutches for the next four to six weeks. Charlotte suffered a concussion and bruised lungs. Hannah was released from the hospital the day after the accident, and Charlotte two days later.
Stephen remains in an induced coma. He suffered eight broken ribs, a bruised lung and his diaphragm tore loose. He went straight to surgery the night of the accident.
Natalie had bruising to her sternum, and her left leg was also bruised severely. Moore’s shoulder was torn up and he had injuries to his lower back.
“Abby had head trauma and we knew it was not good,” Vega said.
According to Newnan Fire Department Battalion Chief Jeffery Patterson, Long’s truck hit the Bachos’ van in the middle and mostly toward the back end, right where Stephen and Abby were sitting. Rescuers pulled the three girls out through the back. Stephen was the last one removed after responders used the Jaws of Life to take off the passenger door.
* * *
“Abby was so energetic and full of life,” Vega said. “She was just high energy all the time and such a beautiful little girl.”
The fourth-grader at Newnan Crossing Elementary School was on the student council, as well as in the chorus and the drama club. Her fellow chorus classmates sang at her funeral.
She loved soccer and played with the Coweta Cannons and Southern Soccer Academy.
A posting on the Coweta Soccer Association website, appearing Christmas Day, said, “We have lost a precious soccer player, 9-year-old Abby Bacho. Please keep the family in your prayers during this time of healing.”
Natalie left Abby’s side for a brief time Christmas morning so she could open presents with her other children. She returned to Egleston to join her sisters, Vega and Meredith Mazon. Their father, Butch, stayed with Hannah and Charlotte in Newnan.
Egleston has a tradition of flying a flag every time an organ transplant operation is going on. At one point, the family took a photo with Mazon holding the flag outside, which says, in part, “An organ transplant is saving the life of a child today.”
And so, Abby lives on.
“We just can’t say enough about all the first responders, the fire department and police and everything they did,” Vega said.
“The outpouring of support has been phenomenal,” she added. “Natalie is humbled by it. Everyone has been so gracious.”
* * *
A member of the Bacho’s church has set up a fund for the family. Donations and contributions should be sent to: The Bank of Georgia, Attention: The Bacho Family Fund, 100 Westpark Drive, Peachtree City, Ga., 30269.
* * *
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”