Highly-decorated vet recuperating
Posted: Saturday, June 5, 2010 7:58 am
By: John Brannon, Staff Reporter
By JOHN BRANNON
His head is healing, 66 staples have been removed and a piece of his skull is still in his abdomen, where it was implanted by surgeons. They will go back and get it when the time is right.
Meanwhile, David Ste-phenson of Union City isn’t doing badly at all in his comeback from a massive stroke May 1. The highly-decorated Vietnam veteran underwent brain surgery at Western Baptist Hospital in Paducah, Ky. and was later transferred to Health South Cane Creek rehabilitation facility in Martin.
Thursday, having just finished a morning session of physical therapy, he and his wife, Kellie, received a visitor who came bearing gifts — a 101st Airborne Division cap and a laminated copy of a feature story about him published in The Messenger.
Stephenson, 63, was a young soldier in a 101st Airborne unit that was ambushed while patroling the Ashau Valley area on March 21, 1969. His heroism under fire earned him the Silver Star and the Purple Heart medals.
The cap was sent by an anonymous donor; the laminated copy of the feature story was sent by Russ Hammonds of State Farm Insurance.
Mrs. Stephenson gave The Messenger an update on her husband’s recovery.
“He went to Western Baptist yesterday (Wednes-day), and saw the neurosurgeon who operated on him,” she said. “Dr. (Theodore) Davies said David is doing remarkably well, better than he would have thought.
“There’s still some swelling of the brain. They won’t put the skull cap back in place for another three months.”
She said her husband is learning to walk again, albeit one step at a time. Thursday morning, with the aid of a therapist, he took 75 steps.
Stephenson grins, even jokes at times, and participates in conversation.
“Sometimes I feel I can jump out of this chair and walk, but then I realize my limitations,” he said.
Kellie said his being moved to Cane Creek has made things much easier for her and other family members. “We’re close to home so we don’t have to drive as far. Contact with family and friends is very important to David’s recovery,” she said.
Speaking of which, Stephenson has a few words in that regard. He said he wants to thank all the people who have visited or called or helped, such as all those who attended a fund raiser for him at VFW Post 4862 in Union City. He was also grateful to the businesses and individuals who contributed items for the fund raiser.
“I’d like to especially thank (Union City police investigator) Chris Cummings and all the Vietnam veterans we’ve heard from,” he said. “I didn’t realize so many people remember Vietnam vets.
“The public response to our situation was just as good, if not better, than a victory parade. Of course, we didn’t have a victory parade for us Vietnam vets back then.”
Stephenson has some special words for his wife.
“She’s my great help, my private nurse, my advisor,” he said. “I said the other day that I didn’t know that marriage vows included things like what she’s been through.
“When you get into a situation like this, it makes you stop and think. They tell me the word ‘gratitude’ is an action word. I say, ‘Be grateful for family and friends.’
“I need to show my gratitude.”
Stephenson, a Goodyear retiree, is in room 301 of Health South Cane Creek facility at Martin.
Published in The Messenger 6.4.10