Waiting for a double-lung transplant, his wife was between the "if" and "when" of death. Katie, the beautiful blond with whom Burwell B. Bell III had fallen in love as a hotshot 19-year-old business student at the University of Chattanooga, was withering away. And there was no command the four-star general could bark or president he could call.
B.B. Bell had ascended through the ranks to become one of the Army's 11 highest ranking officers, "but here I sat helpless," he says.
Almost simultaneously with B.B.'s retirement from the Army in 2008, a rare autoimmune disease was at war within Katie's lungs. Constrictive bronchiolitis was first suspected by doctors to be a much less serious type of bronchitis, which a dose of antibiotics could easily fight off.
But the battle was just beginning with an incurable disease that would eventually make her lungs stop working.
"This was going to be a war we would fight together, not much different from when I was commanding troops in the midst of dire situations—she was always right there with me on the home front, caring, mentoring and lobbying for Army families. She was a champion for soldiers' spouses and children. It was now my turn," B.B. says.
"Take Me Home"
"Those last 15 years I rarely saw him," says Katie of the general who has commanded NATO land forces, U.S. Army forces in Europe and the United States and UN forces in Korea, his last post before retirement.
After 32 moves in 39 years, when asked where she wanted to go, Katie said, "Take me home."
"Move 33 was for her, not me," says B.B., who bought a home just outside of Chattanooga in Ooltewah while he was on leave in the spring of 2008. "It was time."
What he thought would be just a four-year fulfillment of an ROTC scholarship commitment turned into nearly 40 years.
"It was time for me to start dating my wife, my college sweetheart, again," B.B. says.
But matinees and walks in the park would have to wait.
Their post-Army life courtship started with a visit to a Chattanooga doctor, who sent them to Florida's Mayo Clinic. Test after test and medical appointment after medical appointment landed Katie on the lung transplant list at Vanderbilt by early 2009. They waited at home in Ooltewah for either Katie's death or the lifesaving call.
"She was a prisoner of a wheelchair and oxygen mask," B.B. says. "She was nearing death."
But even then, Katie would sit in their sunroom, basking what was left of her frail frame in the sunshine.
Then the call came— March 24 at 8 p.m.
"I was more fearful of surviving B.B.'s driving to Nashville," jokes Katie now, "than I was of the surgery."
The seven-hour surgery was a success, but Katie's recovery was just beginning. Under the watchful eye of her Nashville doctors, Katie began a four-month rehabilitation process. The two moved into a small Nashville apartment near Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
"That's where we started dating again," B.B. says.
"He remembered where the kitchen was," says Katie, laughing. "Fresh fruit, toast or even grits and sausage would be waiting for me every morning."
"We talked, we laughed—we found each other again," she says. "It was such a trying time, but it was such a special time, too."
"Everything was a success and we were back at home, welcomed by mounds of boxes to unpack," says Katie, who today is spry and strong.
Transplant Saves Another Life
Her medical journey is one she shares with their 42-year-old son, Buck, who, incredibly, also underwent a successful double-lung transplant a year after Katie due to a lifelong battle with the genetic disease cystic fibrosis.
"From the moment he was born, Buck defeated all medical predictions," Katie says of Buck, who was stricken by health problems since his birth in Germany, where B.B. was deployed in the field.
"'Failure to thrive' is what I was told when he was born. We were told he would die in a few months because so little was known about cystic fibrosis in the early '70s."
The odds caught up with Buck in 2010, when his lungs failed, presenting him with one option—a lung transplant like his mom.
Today Buck is married and has a daughter in Tampa.
"I live because someone else died and donated their lifesaving lungs," says Katie, touching her wrist, where a lime green plastic bracelet symbolizes the importance of organ donation. B.B. slightly raises the cuff of his blazer to show off his matching bracelet.
She says, "It's a blessing that brings a great obligation—a duty—to tell others about Donate Life America (a nonprofit alliance committed to raising awareness of the lifesaving power of organ, eye, and tissue donors)."
The couple's gratitude extends back to UT Chattanooga in the form of a bequest to create scholarships in the College of Business.
"UTC is where we first met. It's where I first committed to the Army—we have a lot to be thankful for because of UTC," B.B. says.
"My proudest accomplishment had nothing to do with me," he continues. "It is about any help that we can give to young people. Giving them an opportunity to grow and mature and seek their goals and dreams, watch them achieve-my contributions every day in the Army, and still, are focused on that.
"It's a blessing," he says, "that seeds gratitude for what we've been given—the very breath we breathe."
Leave a Legacy
To learn about the many ways you can leave a legacy at UT, contact the Office of Planned Giving at (865) 974-4826 or email@example.com today.
The information on this website is not intended as legal or tax advice. For such advice, please consult an attorney or tax advisor. Figures cited in examples are for hypothetical purposes only and are subject to change. References to estate and income taxes include federal taxes only. State income/estate taxes or state law may impact your results. Annuities are subject to regulation by the State of California. Payments under such agreements, however, are not protected or otherwise guaranteed by any government agency or the California Life and Health Insurance Guarantee Association. A charitable gift annuity is not regulated by the Oklahoma Insurance Department and is not protected by a guaranty association affiliated with the Oklahoma Insurance Department. Charitable gift annuities are not regulated by and are not under the jurisdiction of the South Dakota Division of Insurance.
A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to The University Of Tennessee a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.
an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan
"I, [name], of [city, state, ZIP], give, devise and bequeath to The University Of Tennessee [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."
able to be changed or cancelled
A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.
cannot be changed or cancelled
tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient
the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation
the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase
the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on
The person receiving the gift annuity payments.
the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid
a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will
the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will
A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to UT or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.
An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.
Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.
Securities, real estate, or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.
Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.
A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.
You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the gift tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.
You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and receive an immediate federal income tax charitable deduction. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to UT as a lump sum.
You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and receive an immediate federal income tax charitable deduction. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to UT as a lump sum.
A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.
A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and UT where you agree to make a gift to UT and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.