There are times when we get the chance to rise above simple business and touch people’s lives, and for that we are grateful.
BY SCOTT SIMS
THE MORNING SUN
A community’s response to sudden illness helps one family share a daughters graduation together.
Jeff and Sherri Stephens have been looking forward to watching their daughter, Maggie, graduate from Pittsburg High School for a long time.
On May 10, Jeff Stephens was diagnosed with Leukemia. He was taken to KU Medical Center the next day.
“He was devastated that he would not be able to be here,” Sherri Stephens said. “The doctors recommended that he not wait until after [the graduation] to start his treatment.”
Although the family was upset, they did not see any other option.
Less than a week ago, the family learned that a plan had been put into motion.
The Stephens’ were told that Jeff Stephens would be able to watch his daughter graduate through the use of an Internet link.
“I teared up,” Maggie Stephens said. “I was so happy that people would do this for us.”
The idea came from family friend Tina Wilde. She said, after watching television shows like Alias and 24 and seeing how they link everything together on those shows, if only a small part of that was available, they should try to do something.
“It is very difficult to miss big events in your child’s life,” Wilde said. “If we could prevent that in any way, then you want to do it.”
Darren Couch from Greenbush, the southeast Kansas education service center, located about seven miles west of Girard, put it all together.
Through the use of an Internet website called www.ustream.tv, Couch set up a live video and audio stream that Jeff Stephens could connect to with a laptop in hospital room in the KU Medical Center Hematology/Oncology Department.
“All you really need is a web cam and a computer,” Couch said. “It has been pretty easy. I am glad we are able to do this for them.”
Sherri Stephens said, for Jeff, being able to see his daughter graduate, even if it is over the Internet, has made all the difference.
“I think knowing he would not be here today for her was as bad as getting the diagnosis,” she said. “I cannot tell you how incredible it is.”
While Sherri Stephens has been in Kansas City with her husband Jeff Stephens, their daughter Maggie Stephens has been at home with her sister and grandmother preparing for graduation.
Maggie Stephens said it is amazing that her father will be able to see her graduate live.
“For him to actually see it and experience this means a lot to me,” she said.
During the ceremony, Sherri Stephens stayed in contact with her husband over the phone.
“He said he saw everything,” she said. “It was wonderful.”
The Stephens family received another bit of good new right before the Pittsburg High School graduation ceremony began.
“He gets to come home tomorrow,” Sherri Stephens said.
Scott Sims can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by callingÂ (620) 231-2600, ext. 137.