Colleague, friend hailed as hero

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Peter Young (KEIZERTIMES/Jason Cox)

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

A Keizer man is being hailed as a hero after he found his friend to be in medical distress, very likely saving his life.

Steve Stopa, 61, still faces a long road to recovery after suffering from an aneurysm at his Keizer apartment on July 5. He called in to tell the staff at Garten Services that he wouldn’t be able to make it in for his shift as an equipment operator at the facility.

That worried Peter Young, who is Stopa’s supervisor and also considers him a friend. Young was at home on a day off when he got an early morning call from Stopa.

“He wasn’t in at work and said he had a really bad migraine, and the right side of his body was pretty numb,” Young recalled. “He said he had to crawl from his bedroom into his bathroom. I asked, ‘Are you alright? Do you think you need to go to the doctor?’”

“He said, ‘No.’ He was going to try to make his lunch and make it into work.”

Alarming symptoms for sure, but Stopa chalked it up to ongoing issues with his sciatic nerve, which comes out of the spinal cord and goes down the leg.

“We all chalked it up to having a headache and his sciatic nerve acting up on him – he made a joke, you know, about when I got to work I might fall down the stairs.” Young said of Stopa. “No slurred speech from him. I guess that’s why none of us were really too worried about it, but we were concerned maybe he was having a stroke.”

Young tried to get back in touch with Stopa later that day, but no answer. A clerk at Garten never heard from Stopa either, so Young drove to check in on his friend and co-worker.

“I was hoping I wouldn’t see his car there,” Young said. He saw lights on in Stopa’s home and heard the TV, but no one answered the door when Young pounded on hit and called for his friend.

A neighbor called the manager to open the door, but Young knew more urgent attention was required. He called 911. A paramedic had to climb in through a second-story window to get in the apartment. They loaded Stopa, who was found lying unconscious on the kitchen floor, onto a stretcher and took him to Salem Hospital. He was transported to Oregon Health Sciences University Hospital, where he remained for about a month.

The doctors weren’t sure he’d ever leave, or if he did he would require round-the-clock medical care.

“It’s almost like Steve heard that and said, ‘I’m going to fight this,’” Young said.

Stopa has since been transferred to another Portland facility. His condition is improving rapidly, with full range of motion in his hands, and he’s slowly regaining speech. He doesn’t remember what happened.

But Young’s actions left an impression both on Stopa’s family and on their co-worker, Peter Grell.

Stopa’s brother, John, said doctors are offering only a guarded prognosis of how far Steve’s recovery may go. He thinks Young’s actions are the reason Steve is alive today.

“Between Stephen calling in and being a very responsible person who always showed up when he said he would, and a boss who said, ‘That’s not like him’ and checked on him, I’m pretty certain that he would not be with us today,” John Stopa said.

“This story has yet to be finished but it is clear that Peter Young gave Steve Stopa a fighting chance to live and probably saved his life that day,” Grell added.

Young is more modest.

“They’re really gracious and thankful for the fact that I went down and checked on him. A lot of people actually say, not many people do that for each other,” Young said. “… He’s a friend and a co-worker and I just assume other people would do the same.”

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