On Aug. 21, 2015, Kassidy Bailey sat beside her friend Wyatt Hemmings as he drove the two around his property on a Canadian-American Challenge Cup, or Can-AM, vehicle in Strayhorn, Mississippi at midnight. It was her first time on the ATV.
“The only thing they [the friends with her] told me was not to put my hands on the side,” she said, “and I was like, ‘OK, Why would I do that anyways?’” Bailey said.
The two circled the property before deciding to return for the night, but as they made their last turn, they hit a tree stump, and the ATV flipped twice. Bailey instinctively grabbed the outer frame.
“The first time it flipped, I thought, “My hand is broken,’” Bailey said. “The second time, the top of the Can-AM was on the ground. I looked at it [the hand] again and was like, ‘Uh, it’s not broken. It’s way worse.’”
Her right hand was severed just above her thumb, dangling by a few tendons. Meat was exposed and blood everywhere. Her fingers and knuckles were crushed. She used her left hand to keep it from falling off.
Bailey had never been injured before the accident – with not even broken a bone – but somehow she remained calm the entire ambulance ride to Methodist University Hospital in Memphis.
“Honestly, the first thing I thought was, ‘Oh s—,’” John Haskins, Bailey’s fiancé, said. He and a friend, Daniel Tiner, both watched the accident happen. “I’m an EMT, so I actually wasn’t freaking out. I’ve seen way worse. I was just worried about making sure she was OK, then getting her to a hospital.”
Bailey stayed at Methodist for 11 days and underwent six surgeries. During the first two surgeries, doctors sought to restore her fingers. The next three surgeries were spent removing mud and rocks from the wound.
Bailey wore an oxygen mask twice daily that increased oxygen flow and helped produce blood cells faster. Doctors hoped blood would pump through the veins in her fingers to help them function normally again.
“The oxygen mask was the worst pain I’ve ever felt,” she said. “I had blood trying to get into my fingers, and when the blood just won’t go there, it feels like your fingers are going to explode.”
Doctors later decided to remove the oxygen mask to see if her fingers could circulate blood on their own, but after just one day off, she accepted her fate.
“I’d seen the hand, and it was still nasty [black and bruised],” she said. “So the doctors came in, and I just said, ‘OK, you can go ahead and tell me. I already know.’”
For Bailey’s final surgery, her hand was amputated. She lost everything above her thumb. A week later, she returned to have the stitches removed.
“That was the worst day of my life, because it was so swollen, and they had taken a lot more than I thought they were going to have to,” she said.
Bailey said her healing process was surprisingly pretty painless, but the worst part was waking up in the night and thinking her hand was still there – a symptom of amputation known as phantom limb pain. Despite those occasional feelings, doctors assured her that the hand was healing well.
A month after surgery, Bailey began going to occupational therapy three times a week for her arm and wrist, which were both immobile due to time spent in a sling. A month after she began occupational therapy, she was fitted for a prosthetic that she has worn since late December.
Bailey was originally right-handed, so taking notes and keeping up with her assignments for class wasn’t easy. In order to stay on track for her UM graduation in December of 2016, she used computer software that transcribes words to type until she was able to learn to write with her left hand.
“Kassidy is a role model to me,” said sister Kaitlyn Bailey. “I can’t believe how great she handled it. She is so strong and brave, and she doesn’t think she’s different from anybody else, which I don’t either. Yes, she has her challenges with some things, but she always seems to conquer them. I’m so proud of her and who she is today.”
What many may see as a tragic event, Bailey has turned into a story of daily perseverance and thankfulness. Lately, she’s thankful she gets to wear her sparkling engagement ring on her own left finger.