For these 2 fans, just being at game is huge victory
Two people at Corydon Central High School’s football game Friday night were happy that their Panthers defeated the Salem Lions and racked up another victory, but they were thrilled they were well enough to be at the game.
Will Heitkemper, 17, and Kent Watson, 40, both of Corydon, were in hospitals less than two weeks ago.
Heitkemper, a junior at Corydon Central High School, watched his teammates from the sidelines with his father, Harrison County Commissioner Jim Heitkemper of Elizabeth. Most of the game the young Heitkemper, who was wearing a stiff metal head brace called a ‘halo,’ sat in a wheelchair. He occasionally stood and even took a few steps using a cane.
‘It felt great’ to be there, Will said Monday night from the home of his mother, Dianna White of Corydon.
Heitkemper was seriously injured June 20 in a car crash. He suffered a bruised spinal cord and a fractured vertebra. He spent several weeks in University of Louisville Hospital followed by a month at Frazier Rehab. He returned home Sept. 3.
‘He’s doing wonderful,’ his mother said. ‘He’s working on getting back his motor skills.’
Although he has been released from the hospital, Heitkemper receives physical therapy two days a week at home.
White said her son was never paralyzed, ‘he had feeling all over,’ but doctors told the family Heitkemper was unable to move due to the shock and trauma of the crash.
The halo should be removed soon.
‘The doctors said it would be on for 12 weeks,’ White said. ‘It’s been 11 weeks.’
Once the halo is removed, Heitkemper will wear a ‘C collar’ for a few weeks, his mother said.
White and Jim Heitkemper said the family greatly appreciated everything people did during their son’s stay in the hospital, especially his friends who visited him at the hospital.
‘That really motivated him to get better,’ said White, who was pregnant at the time. (She had her baby about seven weeks ago.)
Micky Emily has been tutoring Heitkemper in his school work, both at the hospital and now that he is home.
‘She’s been doing wonderful,’ White said of Emily.
Heitkemper is hopeful he will be able to play football next year, his senior year.
‘I do want to be able to come back,’ he said.
Heitkemper scored his first touchdown as a varsity player last season during a 40-0 win at Paoli. His 51-yard run was the last touchdown of the game.
‘Football was everything to him,’ his mother said.
On Monday, Heitkemper, whose favorite team is the Green Bay Packers, was watching, what else, Monday Night Football.
He said he intends to attend the remaining Panthers games, both home and away.
‘I’ll be there to watch my team,’ he said.
Kent Watson hopes to be there, too.
Watson and his wife, Sherry, returned to their Corydon home Labor Day Weekend after Kent had surgery on Aug. 25.
‘They got all the tumor out of my heart,’ he said Sunday afternoon.
Doctors also installed a pacemaker during a six-hour surgery.
Watson, who works for Indiana Utilities in Corydon, learned a little more than a year ago that he had a large mass on his heart, which was diagnosed as angiosarcoma, a heart tumor. He also had spots on his lungs; a biopsy was done to remove the spots.
Physicians in Louisville said Kent’s only option was a heart transplant.
But before the couple made a trip to a specialist in Houston, they learned of a relatively new drug that is used to treat some cancers, and Kent began taking the prescription drug Gleevec, which targets the cancer rather than the body’s organs.
Heart surgery was still a possibility at that time, depending on whether the mass had damaged the heart and, if so, to what extent.
Since then the Watsons, both 1981 graduates of Corydon Central High School, have made numerous trips to Houston, with the most recent being for heart surgery at Methodist Hospital.
The couple’s minister from Lincoln Hills Christian Church in Corydon, the Rev. Webster Oglesby, and his wife, Joyce, flew to Texas to be with Sherry and Kent’s mother, Jeanette Watson.
‘They helped time pass,’ Sherry said. ‘We read scripture and had prayer at the top of every hour.’
She said she was ‘blanketed in comfort’ by everyone, including a hospital staff person named Betty, who provided updates on Kent’s condition during the long surgery.
‘We just want to thank our family and everyone who helped here (at home),’ Sherry said.
‘Everybody’s been good to us,’ Kent added.
Dr. Michael Reardon, Watson’s surgeon, has performed about 20 similar surgeries, which involve a technique not commonly used in the United States, Sherry Watson said. Nineteen of those surgeries have been successful, she said.
Watson was given water after surgery. ‘It was the best drink of water I ever had in my life,’ he said.
Kent said he has some restrictions regarding lifting but with time he should be back to normal. Going through security checkpoints, such as those at airports, will require medical papers now that he has the pacemaker.
The couple will go to Houston later this month. Kent will see a lung doctor about the nodules on his lung.
‘We’ve come a long way since last year,’ Sherry said. ‘I didn’t know when we’d see light at the end of the tunnel.’
‘I’m getting better every day,’ Kent said.