Nearly a year ago, Kyle Cashwell was in a farming accident that changed his life and those of his loved ones forever, taking his leg and one of the arms he used to help countless others as a Sampson County paramedic. While his life and body have been transformed, Cashwell said, it is for the better.
What happened since that near-death incident on Oct. 20, 2014 has been nothing short of a miracle. The community rallied around the Cashwell family — Kyle, wife Kristy and their three children — and on Monday night, Kyle, with Kristy by his side, was honored for his years of service to the county.
A county paramedic from Feb. 13, 2008 to Aug. 31, 2015, Kyle thanked county officials and county commissioners, who reciprocated their gratitude. Sampson Board of Commissioners vice-chairman Sue Lee, the presiding chair for the night, presented Cashwell with a plaque “in acknowledgment and grateful appreciation of your dedicated service to the citizens of Sampson County,” she noted, reading from the plaque.
Cashwell said it was his honor.
“I would like to thank the county for allowing me to work with you, to learn and be able to serve the people of Sampson County while living in the county as a resident,” he attested.
Cashwell offered specific thanks to Emergency Management director Ronald Bass and the EMS staff for “doing an excellent job protecting me, from the time they picked me up from my accident … they have been a great blessing to me and my family.”
He also called his EMS supervisor Kevin Hairr “a great leader.”
“It was a blessing to work with someone that cared about the people of the county and wanted everything done right,” Cashwell said, who repeatedly thanked others during his brief speech, his voice shaking at points. “I just really would like to thank you to everyone. Thank you.”
On that fateful fall day in October 2014, Cashwell was snapping corn in the field as part of his second job as a farmer. His wife Kristy had already left for work at Southwood Nursing Home and their three children were in school. When the snapper got jammed, Cashwell disengaged and dismounted it in an effort to solve the problem. When the equipment jumped back into gear, it entangled Cashwell’s right arm and leg.
Cashwell was able to get to his phone and call for help and soon EMS, firefighters and law enforcement officers converged on the scene. Cashwell was whisked away by emergency personnel to Garland, where Duke Life Flight took him directly to the hospital’s intensive care unit. Cashwell had numerous surgeries in the weeks and months that followed and ultimately lost his right arm and leg.
But what he gained was far greater.
In the wake of Cashwell’s accident, the community threw its full support behind the Cashwells, raising money through the sale of bracelets, signs, T-shirts and baked goods, as well as holding turkey shoots, tractor pulls, dances, cornhole tournaments, silent auctions, barbecue plate sales and raising funds in various other ways.
Throughout the whole ordeal, more than 3,000 people followed Cashwell’s condition on the “Praying for Kyle Cashwell” Facebook page, where Kristy posted heartfelt posts day and night about how Kyle and the rest of the family were faring, requesting prayers and sharing her love for everyone’s support.
Kristy was by Kyle’s side again Monday night, as commissioner after commissioner offered their immense gratitude to Cashwell for his service, including Lee, Harry Parker, Albert Kirby and Clark Wooten.
“It was a pleasure and an honor meeting you,” Lee said.
“I have been in the county for about six years, and I have met a lot of interesting people who you can truly admire,” said County manager Ed Causey. “I believe Mr. and Mrs. Cashwell will be the first ones to tell you that a lot of people in the community have come forward, supported them and offered them many lessons.
Others have gotten the better part of the deal, he and others said.
“This gentleman has the personality, the spirit and the motivation that whatever has been done for him, he has been much more of a blessing to the people that have come into contact with him,” Causey continued. “He is someone that, if your spirits are down, you need to spend a few minutes talking to him and let him show you how to get lifted up and press along.”
Parker credited Cashwell with “setting the bar very high” for others at EMS, something to which everyone should aspire.
“We are so proud,” Kirby stated. “We got the better of the deal with you working at EMS.”
Cashwell modestly accepted the thanks, and said his life has changed for the better — and he has his family and community to thank for that.
“It’s been a blessing to me and my family. Everybody in Sampson County has gone above and beyond. They came out and did things they didn’t have to do,” he remarked. “To be in a county that people will come out and help each other … things people didn’t have to do and they did them. The Lord has blessed me and my family. I’ve lost an arm and a leg, but my life’s better now than it’s ever been. I would just like to say thank you again.”
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.