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St. Petersburg boy, 5, knows how to save diabetic dad

Danny Stephen says he has been leaning on his 5-year-old son, Jude Stephen, for support lately.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Danny Stephen says he has been leaning on his 5-year-old son, Jude Stephen, for support lately.

ST. PETERSBURG — Five-year-old Jude Stephen thought his dad was speaking Japanese.

"Ma-ma-ma!" That's what it sounded like to Jude.

Jude's dad, 43-year-old Danny Stephen, is a diabetic. He had a severe reaction Saturday morning and was barely conscious for most of the day.

Around dinnertime, Stephen felt a rush of adrenaline. He knew he needed help. He tried to tell Jude to get juice, but Jude thought his dad was saying his name.

Finally, they had a breakthrough.

Jude helped him drink from juice packs, the kind with a straw. Then Jude hand-fed his father two cupcakes. Finally, Jude squeezed honey into his mouth.

As Jude held the phone, Stephen called his mother, who called 911.

When paramedics arrived, Stephen walked down to meet the truck.

"That's really unusual with diabetic calls," said David Fraser, a paramedic with St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue, who said patients are usually comatose. "I told the father, I've been doing this 30 years. Anyone who makes my job easier is a hero to me."

•••

The kindergartener at Bear Creek is confident and outgoing, a bit of a ham. He loves to talk, even though he has a trouble pronouncing all the sounds.

Jude and his dad live in Yacht Club Estates in a home that's in foreclosure. Stephen got a good deal on the rent in exchange for fixing it up.

In the entryway, Jude happily points to a picture on the wall. It shows his mom with a big belly, pregnant with Jude.

Last year, Michelle Stephen had a stroke. She died shortly afterward, in September, at age 41.

"It's just been him and me since then," Stephen said.

Stephen and Jude are especially close now. They hug 20 times a day and say "I love you" constantly. With just the two of them in their big house, they call out to each other to make sure everybody is okay.

Jude climbs into Stephen's bed at night. As SpongeBob and Patrick would say, "Sleepover!"

"That little boy, I've been leaning more on him for support than he's been leaning on me," Stephen said.

A couple of weeks after his wife died, Stephen lost his construction job. Stephen had to apply for food stamps.

He says the financial hardship has made it difficult for him to manage his diabetes. He can't always afford the test sticks that tell him his blood sugar level. Without them, it's guesswork.

•••

Stephen felt tired and lay down to sleep about 9 or 10 Saturday morning. Jude watched TV alone with their German shepherd, Kiki.

Stephen says he hasn't had such a severe reaction in years. If he's awake, he'll feel a change and make sure to eat something. But since he was napping, he couldn't stop the spell from coming. "It's like being in a dream," Stephen said.

Jude said his dad was making weird sounds and staring at him.

When Jude started feeling hungry at dinnertime, he tried to wake his dad up. After Stephen helped Jude eat, Stephen told him to call 911. He dialed 9.

"I forgot one," Jude said.

Jude brought his dad's cell phone to him. Together, they got help.

"You almost died," Jude told his dad Saturday evening, after his grandmother drove to their house to make sure they were okay.

"You saved my life," Stephen answered.

•••

After all that, Stephen didn't even need to go to the hospital. Paramedics checked him out and he signed a release form.

Fraser told Stephen that his son was a hero.

"The guy is down on his luck, way down on his luck, but he just seemed so happy," Fraser said. "It just felt good being there."

Stephen says he's going to teach Jude to dial 911.

"I was crying," Jude said. "I'm not crying anymore."

St. Petersburg boy, 5, knows how to save diabetic dad 02/01/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 3, 2009 11:56am]
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