Stephen Pennington will never forget November 19, 2017. His left foot was very pale and cold to the touch. His long-time companion, Debbie Thorne took him to the local urgent care and after a brief consultation with the doctor he was moved to Calvert Memorial Hospital (CMH). From CMH he would be moved to Washington Hospital Center where they found a blot clot in his left leg and aneurisms in both legs and stomach. They performed surgery to correct the problems and other issues that had been discovered. He slipped into a coma and when he awoke weeks later, his left foot was gone.
January 23, 2018, he was moved to short-term rehabilitation center to learn how to cope with one leg. Rehab would be short-lived because his insurance company told him they would not cover the costs because he had gone out of network.
Coming home he faced another hurdle. He could not get up the five steps to his home. Not knowing what to do, they went the Solomons Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department. Company volunteers followed him back to his home and literally carried him up the steps. He was home but was now tied to his home. With the help of his doctor, Dr. Lynn Thomas, he was able to get some home care and a hospital bed.
Before retiring, Pennington had been active, working for the Highway Maintenance Department of the Prince Georges County Government. He was not used to being stuck in his house.
In March, Pennington called the American Legion Post 274. A long-time member of the Sons of the American Legion, he was calling about membership cards, asking if they could be mailed. Tony O’Donnell, former Delegate, answered the phone. He told Pennington he had not seen him in a few months and Pennington told him what had happened. Tony said he would deliver the cards in a few days.
O’Donnell made good on his promise and dropped the cards off a few days later. He saw that Pennington could not get out of the house and decided to do something about it. Working with other members of the Post, O’Donnell raised money for the project. O’Donnell said “People were generous. There were more than 30 donors that stepped to the plate and donated a total of $3300.”
Dave Barnes, Reel Good Home Improvements, learned of the project from O’Donnell, telling him “I’m in, you raise the funds, I will build with all receipts for materials at my price.” He then went home and told his wife (and business partner), “we are building a ramp.”
Barnes designed and laid out the project. Because Pennington rents his home, Barnes worked with the owner of the house (and Pennington’s neighbor), Junior Ward, who pulled the permit for the project. The ramp took three weekends to build. All of the labor was donated and included Barnes, his son Stephan Barnes, Tony O’Donnell, Bill Dalton, Eric Walls and Gary Smith.
Sunday, July 8, was a day of celebration. Thirty people gathered as Pennington “officially” cut the ribbon on his new ramp. They cooked hot dogs and hamburgers on a grill to go with the potato salad, deviled eggs, Cole slaw and other picnic items that were set up under a huge shade tree next to Pennington’s home.
As the group gathered enjoying the delicious meal, Pennington talked proudly about his son, Lance Corporal Matthew Pennington, USMC, stationed at Camp Pendleton, California. Pennington also talked about his step-father who fought during the Battle of Midway.
Pennington is very grateful to the members of American Legion Post 274 who pitched in to help build the ramp. With no way to get out of the house to go to the doctor, he would still be sitting there. He is now taking blood thinners, and next month he will begin the process to get a new leg. He said “People are good, they help one another and their neighbors. There is a lot of goodness in our American Legion Post.”
Please enjoy the picture gallery below.
Joyce Stinnett Baki / Calvert Beacon Reporter