Payson Girl's Death Brings Life To Others

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No timepiece ever made can tell a parent when a child's journey through life will end. In the blink of an eye, the trip may be over.

A Payson High School student was killed and another injured Tuesday morning in a single-vehicle rollover accident on Highway 87 near mile marker 211.

Kayla Floyd, 17, was ejected from her vehicle and fell into an irreversible condition at the scene of the accident.

The passenger, Kevin Taccone, 16, was partially ejected and sustained broken bones and head injuries. Both were air lifted to Phoenix-area hospitals.

Kayla was placed on life support at Scottsdale Healthcare-Osborn, but doctors determined there was no chance of keeping her alive.

When her parents, Chris and Jerry Floyd arrived at the hospital, they were told their daughter was brain dead.

It happened so fast

The accident occurred at 11:19 a.m. Tuesday, about 17 miles north of the Fort McDowell Indian Reservation while Kayla and her boyfriend, Kevin, were traveling south on Highway 87 in a pickup truck.

"I remember looking over and there was a semi-trailer moving into our lane," Kevin said. "The truck was drifting left and Kayla tried to get away by slowing down and then the back tire hit the gravel and the bed of our truck hit a reflector pole."

According to Kevin, their vehicle began to slide toward the tractor-trailer and Kayla attempted to regain control.

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A memorial was set up outside the home of Payson High School student Kayla Floyd, who was killed in a rollover accident on Highway 87 Tuesday. More than 30 classmates and friends held a candlelight vigil Wednesday night.

"She tried to correct it again and we started sliding across the road and into the middle divider," Kevin said.

The vehicle rolled three or four times and came to a stop on the northbound lanes. Neither Kayla nor Kevin was wearing a seat belt.

Kevin said everything happened so fast, and he couldn't readily recall all the details, but he did remember someone pulling him from the truck.

"I woke up and saw Kayla laying face down. I tried to get up and walk to her, but my leg collapsed," Kevin said.

Department of Public Safety Sgt. John Whetten said a number of people trained in emergency first aid offered help.

"There's a canine police officer training event taking place in Payson," Whetten said. "Six officers stopped and gave assistance. There was also an off-duty Mesa firefighter who performed CPR."

That firefighter was Mesa engineer and EMT Larry Campbell. With assistance from his son, and other bystanders, they began to treat Kevin and Kayla.

"We called for two helicopters, but right before they arrived Kayla's condition began to get worse," Campbell said. "I lost a daughter when she was 10 years old, so my heart goes out to (Kayla's parents)."

Doctors believe that Campbell's efforts, along with a nurse from Phoenix Children's Hospital helped keep Kayla's vital organs viable.

The gift of life

After a brain scan, the hospital neurologist declared Kayla brain dead.

Chris and Jerry Floyd faced an agonizing decision -- to disconnect the life support and let their daughter slip away, or keep her alive to protect vital organs that could bring life to others.

With that, Chris said, the eyes of the people who gave her life met -- Kayla's grief-stricken parents were in agreement.

"Without a doubt we knew this is what we wanted," Chris said. "Something good has to come out of this."

The hospital prepared to recover Kayla's organs for donation.

"Even now, I wouldn't change my mind -- as agonizing as it was, I would not do anything differently, I don't think Jerry would either," Chris said.

Marcel Pincince, donation and family advocate for Donor Network of Arizona stayed at their side.

"The Floyd family was in that tragic moment of hearing the unbelievable news that their 17-year-old daughter had died," Pincince said. "Sadly, they were powerless as parents to change that reality. However, they did have the courage in that moment to exercise the power they did have. In the name of Kayla they chose to give the gift of life through organ donation to complete strangers. The last chapter Christine and Jerry Floyd could write for Kayla through donation would be one of ultimate love and generosity, truly a reflection of who their daughter was."

"Marcel was wonderful," Chris said. "He was at our service. Whatever we needed, he was there -- holding our hands, never wavering. He cried with us. He prayed with us."

Within 24 hours of making the life-changing decision, the Floyds learned that something good did indeed happen.

"We got a telephone call this afternoon (Wednesday). (The donor network staff) were able to use both her kidneys and the heart valves," Chris said.

Robert and Melissa Higginbotham are close friends of the family and accompanied the Floyds throughout the ordeal, giving them comfort and assisting with arrangements. Melissa has a nursing background and explained how the heart valves give life to young recipients.

"They use the heart valves in newborn babies with congenital heart defects," Melissa said. "Isn't that wonderful, that babies will live because of Kayla's heart. They will also use her skin and bones. The skin will help burn victims and people with diabetes who have wounds that won't heal."

Kayla's kidneys will go to two different individuals.

"They call it a zero match on the kidneys," Chris said. "That means both of her kidneys were perfect for two people."

The Floyds received word Thursday morning that Kayla's eyes were also donated. They expressed their gratitude for the outpouring of love and support they received.

"We are surrounded by family and friends and received compassionate support from the whole trauma team. The nurses prayed and cried with us," Chris said.

Remembering Kayla

Chris believes that Kayla would be pleased to know she was able to give life to others at the end of her own life.

"We have to hang on to the fact that there's a little piece of Kayla out there somewhere, because she gave the gift of life. She was always a helper -- always reaching out to help people," Chris said. "And this is her way of continuing to help. She's still reaching out and touching others' lives."

"She was just so full of energy and life," said 16-year-old Wytnee Hlavacek, one of Kayla's close friends. "Kayla was my guardian angel."

Retired teacher Max Foster also remembers Kayla for her exuberance. "She was very vibrant. Her presence lit up the classroom. One day I saw her at Bashas' and she just shouted out across the room ‘Hey Mr. Foster, how are you?' She was just that kind of a girl."

The Floyd family is asking that donations be made in Kayla's memory to Payson Community Kids, a local organization that assists children.

"Kayla was always reaching out to kids," Chris said.

Donations can be sent to Payson Community Kids, 303 N. Beeline Highway, Payson, AZ 85541.

Family and friends are invited to attend a celebration of Kayla's life scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday, July 19 at First Southern Baptist Church at the corner of Bonita and Ash streets with a luncheon to follow.

Looking at a favorite photo of Kayla working with dolphins at Sea World, Chris reminds parents to cherish every step of life's journey with their children.

"Be sure to hug your kids and tell them you love them every single day," Chris said.

Flipping the photo over she reads the words, "Mom, thank you for a fun trip. Love always, Kayla."

Organ donation facts

A misconception about organ donation is that it is indicated on the back of driver's licenses. The donation option on Arizona driver's licenses was actually removed in 1997. So people need to register if they want to be a donor.

To register, log on to www.donatelifeaz.org or call (800) 94donor(36667).

Nationwide, 17 people die every day while waiting for a life-saving organ. Every 12 minutes, another name is added. Yet fewer than a half percent of Arizona residents are registered organ donors. As of Thursday afternoon, 37,577 Arizonans are registered organ donors.

See Related Editorial: Child's death should remind us what really matters

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