Umatilla woman pronounced brain-dead but is actually alive - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Umatilla woman pronounced brain-dead but is actually alive

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Family members say a Umatilla woman was pronounced brain-dead. But she is alive and getting better. An emotionally exhausted family says it's all because she's an organ donor.

At age 51, Karen Arbogast was a wife, mother and grandmother, as well as an EMT in the Tri-Cities area.

Her daughter, Candice Duncan says Karen always thought of others first.

State troopers say early Tuesday evening, Karen was driving home from an errand when a FedEx truck ran a red light and slammed into Karen's van.

Her son, Scott Magnuson, says doctors in Kennewick told them the crash had left her brain-dead.

Because Karen is an organ donor, they left her on life support so they could fly her to Harborview in Seattle.

Scott says his father took Karen's wedding rings off, and the family said their goodbyes, but, "I didn't really say goodbye because, I still had hope you know. I just kind of got down next to her and kissed her forehead and said I hope you recover."

Little did he know; little did any of them know, until her husband got the word.

Perry Arbogast, Karen's brother in law says, "He's there sitting at his chair at 2:30 in the morning, and the doctor calls and says, we have signs of life."

Ten hours after the crash, Harborview had found brain activity. After surgery to remove a blood clot and relieve pressure in her brain Karen is actually getting better.

"She moved her upper shoulder, and she wiggled her toes on her right side, and her irises are responding to light," said daughter Candice Duncan.

On Thursday, Karen Arbogast was even able to breathe on her own for 45 minutes..

"Had they not sent her here to harvest the organs they would not have found out she was alive," said Perry. "I think that's remarkable!"

Karen is not out of the woods yet. Family members say doctors give her just one in four chance of regaining consciousness. Still, with everything they've been through, they'll take those odds any day.

Karen's family says a neurologist told them it is actually not unusual for victims to have no brain activity for several hours after major trauma - even if they're still alive.