New dad fighting for his life this Father’s Day

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 17, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; This Father’s Day may be the most precious one that Charlie Stevens and his family ever celebrate.

Last summer, he and his wife, Jody, adopted two beautiful daughters, Ashley, 8, and Amber, 5.

Charlie, who turned 28 on June 1, will mark his first Father’s Day as a dad next Sunday.

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But Charlie is now fighting for his life, devastated by a bacterial infection that caused doctors to remove his colon in February.

Since then, the former electrician’s helper has lost 54 pounds and required frequent hospitalization.

&uot;Doctors say his age and his strong heart have been key factors in his survival. This would have killed an older man,&uot; Jody said Saturday morning at the family’s home on Springfield Road.

Charlie tried bravely to talk about his illness but was too weak. Jody and a home health nurse helped him into a car for another ride to the hospital, where doctors found he was suffering complications from an infection.

Jody’s sister, Cathy, stayed with Ashley and Amber, who played in the yard with their pet pug, Diego.

&uot;He has his good days and his bad days. This is one of the bad days,&uot; Cathy said.

A picture of Charlie and Jody taken after the couple married in 1999 is reminder of the good times.

Charlie, who worked out and loves to play softball, weighed a robust 175 pounds then.

&uot;Two weeks ago we nearly lost him. He was in intensive care at University Medical Center in Jackson. They had to give him 14 pints of blood. We formed a prayer chain, and a few days later he started getting better and was able to come home,&uot; Cathy said.

For the Stevens family, prayer has been the most important medicine of all. Charlie and Jody belong to Springfield Baptist Church where they both taught Sunday school before Charlie’s illness. The two also sang in the gospel group, Higher Calling.

&uot;Their faith and strength is unbelievable. They just want their lives back,&uot; Cathy said.

Charlie and Jody fostered Ashley and Amber for a year before their adoption became final.

The sisters remember their dad before he got sick.

&uot;Ashley is very emotional. She wants to take care of him, and she helps out a lot. Amber is younger, and she gets mad when we have to take daddy to the hospital,&uot; Jody said.

Still, even with her concern for her dad, Ashley made the honor roll this year at Adams County Christian School.

With Charlie’s medical bills piling up &045; one shot that he recently needed cost $1,000 &045; the Stevens have organized a benefit coed softball tournament for Friday and Saturday in Vidalia.

Nine teams have already paid the $100 entry fee, and Cathy hopes to have a dozen by Friday.

&uot;It’s hard to do benefits, but when it’s your family, it makes it even harder,&uot; Cathy said.

The family has received lots of help from their church and friends, and even an unexpected house call Friday from a local physician.

&uot;Dr. Laura Patterson came out here to see Charlie yesterday, and that is unheard of in this day and age,&uot; said Cathy.

By mid-afternoon Saturday, Charlie was sleeping in a room at Community Hospital, with Jody by his side.

Jody said the family has had to learn quickly about medicine and Charlie’s illness.

&uot;We’ve had to catch a lot of his symptoms and problems on our own. I feel like I should go to medical school after this is over,&uot; Jody said.

Charlie is looking at a year-long recovery period with more surgery, according to Jody.

&uot;He will have to be nutritionally sound before then. Right now, there are days he can’t eat at all,&uot; she said.

But Jody said Charlie’s strength has amazed her. &uot;He was already humble. He didn’t have to be humbled even more by a disease that destroyed his colon. But it didn’t destroy his will. Even in ICU, he would look at me and say, ‘Everything’s going to be all right,&uot; Jody said.