"I didn't want to go back towards the wreck, so I told him to take me to the Munford clinic." His friend, however, did not listen. They headed back in the direction of the wreck and when they arrived they saw plenty of police officers and FBI agents. Taylor and Poindexter had kidnapped a woman and her son, who was playing in a sandbox at the time, and was holding them hostage in a nearby apartment. The robbery suspects were apprehended by police and FBI. One hour and 23 minutes had passed from the time the siren went off in Mason until the two were in handcuffs in Millington. There were ambulances on the scene and Wagner was taken to the hospital. The driver of the Lumina, Trevor McCracken, 22, was taken to The Med.
Meanwhile, Wagner's mother, Lenda, then a teacher at Millington East, a school right around the corner from the accident, was on lockdown in the cafeteria with all of the students, faculty and staff. They'd heard the sirens and had heard rumors of a shooting or maybe a bank robbery. When she saw her husband, Roy, at the school she knew there was a problem.
"When I saw him I asked what was wrong. 'Matthew's been shot,' he said. I had no idea what to think," she remembers. "Then I found out that it was a bank robbery and a shooting."
And even though she was supposed to be on lockdown, her principal let her go to be with her son. She and her husband arrived at the naval hospital just behind the ambulance.
"When we got there, the ambulance doors were open and I saw his huge feet and they moved. I told my husband, 'He's alive because his feet just moved!' When your 17-year-old is on his last day of spring break, you don't expect to hear that he was shot."
Wagner was stabilized and X-rays were taken. His left kidney was shattered and the bullet went through his liver and intestines. He was then flown by Life Flight to The Med. He never lost consciousness and was not given pain medicine. "I asked for some and they said, 'No! It'll kill you!' I remember saying, 'I don't care,'" he laughs.
While in the waiting room at The Med, the families heard the news reports of the events that had transpired that afternoon and it was then that Lenda Wagner first realized just how serious the situation was. "We heard the news in the waiting room. We heard his name. When I heard 'critical condition' I knew then that he could die."
Relatives of the Wagner family rallied around them, coming from Arkansas. "We also grew close to the McCracken family too because we were all there for the same reason. You get close to people in a situation like this when you're all waiting in the hospital waiting room." Mention of the hospital brings about a sober memory for Matthew.
"I could hear Trevor [McCracken] screaming in pain. His pelvis was crushed. He was in a room near mine." Later Wagner underwent surgery and upon recovery asked about McCracken. This is when he learned that McCracken had died that Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. He left behind a widow, Johnna, and a daughter, Jessica, and was a sailor stationed in Millington.
As fate would have it, the wreck, shooting and kidnapping happened just 100 feet inside federal government property, so Taylor and Poindexter were tried in Memphis by a federal grand jury and convicted of armed robbery, kidnapping, attempted murder and other charges. They were not given the death penalty, but life in prison with no chance of parole.
"I don't mind the fact that they didn't get the death penalty," says Lenda Wagner. "Just as long as they are locked up for the rest of their lives."
During the trial, they remember, Poindexter seemed remorseful so they had a little more sympathy for the then 18-year-old. Taylor, however, did not seem at all regretful.
Wagner's recovery from the shooting was not easy. After he was released from the hospital he grew very ill with flu-like symptoms. Eventually doctors found that the ureter to his remaining kidney was damaged and they speculated that the shockwaves from being shot caused the damage.
Wagner had uremic poisoning, which is also known as acute renal failure, a very serious disease in which there is a rapid loss of kidney function resulting in the retention of the body's waste. He went into two comas and almost died. Doctors put in stents that were unsuccessful and Wagner ended up with a tube in his back that drained his kidney into a bag, called a nephrostomy.
"Can you imagine an 18-year-old boy having to wear and change a bag like this!" his mother asks candidly as she recounts anecdotes from a time that doesn't seem as long ago as it was.
"Well, it was good for the movie theater," Matthew jokes. "I didn't have to miss the good parts of the movie because I wasn't in the bathroom!"
After six months of being weak, not sleeping well, not eating very much and having to change his nephrostomy bag, in November 1992, his condition finally cleared and his ureter healed. In those six months he spent a lot of time either in a hospital or in a hospital bed in his living room. He tried going to school and ended up going half-days because he was too ill.
"They let me out of the hospital an hour before I graduated and I was right back in afterwards." "Matthew had turned 18 and was in the hospital on election day, but the doctors let him go vote," remembers Lenda. "I voted for Clinton," laughs Matthew.
Ironically, now 15 years later, Matthew Wagner needs a kidney. Last year Wagner found a pocket of fluid and after testing, doctors found that it was benign, meaning that the cells were non-cancerous, but there were problems with his kidneys. Biopsies were done on the kidney tissue, of which 80 percent is scarred or destroyed. His right kidney is enlarged to compensate for the missing left kidney. His remaining kidney was then functioning at only 35 percent of what it should be. It is now functioning at only 16 percent.
He has a condition called Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), a progressive disease that affects the kidney by attacking glomeruli, tiny units within the kidney where blood is cleaned. Glomerulosclerosis is the scarring or hardening of the tiny blood vessels within the kidney. FSGS is not hereditary and doctors are not quite sure what has caused it in Matthew. It is been said that this disease is not related to his prior kidney loss, but mother Lenda thinks it's too coincidental. "I'm not a doctor, I have no professional knowledge of this, but being his mother I think the weakening of his kidney left him more susceptible." "Well, to me, it doesn't matter what caused it. I have it," Matthew says, matter-of-factly. The family is hoping for a pre-emptive transplant, one done before Matthew needs dialysis, which will happen once kidney function falls below 10 percent. Wagner has been referred to a transplant team and doctors expect him to need a kidney by the end of this year, which is now only six months away. Since last year his kidney function has decreased by 19 percent. When, exactly, he will need a new kidney is unclear, but one thing is certain: a donor needs to be found quickly. Why doesn't his family donate a kidney? To complicate matters a little more, Matthew's blood type is O negative. His family members are all O positive. This means that while Matthew can donate blood and other tissues to persons with A, B, AB and O blood types, he cannot receive donations from anyone but an O negative donor because his body will reject them. Brother Mitchell Wagner has expressed an interest in donating one of his kidneys if someone else - a match - will donate to Matthew. It seems unfair that the Wagner and McCracken families have had to suffer the long-term consequences after poor decision-making by Taylor and Poindexter long ago on that spring day. Trevor McCracken is dead, leaving behind a wife who became twice-widowed that day and daughter who has grown up without her father. That daughter, Jessica, is now about the same age Matthew and Poindexter were when the bank was robbed and the tragic events unfolded. And Matthew has become prisoner to a serious kidney disease. For now the Wagner family continues to lead a normal life while waiting. Waiting to see the transplant team. Waiting for dialysis. Waiting on a donor kidney. Hopefully they don't have to wait until it's too late.
If you are interested in donating a kidney or if you would like more information, you may call Lenda Wagner at (901) 476-5314. Ms. Wagner asks that you leave a message and she will contact you as soon as she possibly can.