MONROE, CT — Troop 62 is rallying support for one of its own. Christopher Stead, 20, a former Boy Scout who earned his Eagle, suffered a stroke in Oregon, where he was studying for a business degree. His family wants to fly him home, so he can rehabilitate closer to loved ones, but cannot afford to.
The Steads do not have medical coverage for the $35,000 quote from Air Ambulance Angel MedFlight, so Natalia Rivera, a high school friend of Stead’s mother, started a Go Fund Me page called “Help Christopher reunite with his family”. As of Monday night, it received 263 donations totaling $22,150.
Sandy Kydd-Stead, Christopher’s mother, is moved by the show of support for her son.
“I am in awe. I am so grateful and thankful,” she said during a telephone interview Monday night. “I had no idea it would get this much. I thank God every day. I really want to say, ‘thank you so very much.’ It’s so unexpected. Some days, I cry and think, ‘these people are giving me money — a lot them I don’t know.'”
Kydd-Stead is also grateful to Rivera, who is serving on a military base in the Army.
“She asked me why I chose her,” Kydd-Stead said. “I wasn’t doing well. We need a plane. I called her and said, ‘hey Nat, ask your commander if we can use one of his planes.’ She said, ‘Sandy, they are not his planes,'” Kydd-Stead added with a chuckle.
However, Rivera did start the Go Fund Me page.
“That was really nice of her, because it was a lot of work,” Kydd-Stead said. “Thank you so much Natalie. I comment on her Facebook posts. We are not close friends, but I asked and she answered — and I am thankful.”
Signs of trouble
The Steads can open each other’s cellphones and Kydd-Stead said Christopher would always take funny pictures for her to find. She said her son, a graduate of Fairfield Wheeler’s Class of 2020, is kind and enjoyed playing video games and riding his dirt bike.
On July 20, when he complained about headaches and the loss of vision in one eye, Christopher Stead’s fiancée, Katie, brought him to the hospital and doctors determined he had suffered a stroke.
“When he went to the hospital, he was still talking,” Kydd-Stead said. “Then they had to incubate him.”
She said her son has no history of being susceptible to strokes and doctors still do not know what caused it. That is why she wants a second opinion.
Stead had to have a craniotomy, a procedure where bone is removed from the skull to access the brain, and was on a ventilator. Now, he has a tracheotomy and a G-tube, while slowly recovering his speech and movement.
On Monday night, the hospital spoke with a neurologist from Yale who accepted Christopher as his patient. Kydd-Stead said the doctor has a procedure to close the opening in Christopher’s skull with less chance of an infection.
Kydd-Stead and her husband, Stanley, flew to Oregon to be with Christopher soon after he was admitted, and are still staying there, along with their older son, James, 22. Early on, Kydd-Stead’s stepdaughter, Chelsea was at the hospital with her husband, and Kydd-Stead’s stepson, Nicholas.
“Yesterday, he put three words together,” Kydd-Stead said of Christopher. “He said, ‘that sounds good.’ He could count to 10. He knew the days of the week. Sometimes, he can give you one word answers. He knows he’s in the hospital. He knows he’s in Corvallis, Oregon.”
Stead, who sleeps most of the day, must be awake for a minimum of three hours per day, before rehabilitation centers in Oregon will take him, a requirement he has yet to meet, according to Kydd-Stead.
“He still gets very tired,” she said. “He has shown some improvement. He couldn’t move his right arm. He could just move his thumb and squeeze. Two days ago, he made a bicep curl and did two of them. Then he got tired. But the mere fact he moved his arm means he’s getting better.”
Kydd-Stead said it is too early to predict how fully her son will recover.
“We try to be positive every time we step into this room for Christopher,” she said. “Every day, we tell him he’ll get better.”
Christopher and his brother James were Boy Scouts in Troop 62 together, and both earned their Eagle Scout rankings in 2019. Christopher’s Eagle Scout project was leading fellow scouts in the installation of signs along trails at Webb Mountain Park.
Aneta Szczypiorski, a board member of Troop 62, said Christopher was always responsible, friendly and cheerful, while looking after the younger scouts.
“It is heartbreaking,” she said of Christopher’s stroke. “And it is unfortunate that we seem to have such a limited ability to help. But if we all can come together, hopefully we can support the family and help them to raise enough money to bring Chris home.”
After finding out about the Go Fund Me page, Liz Fontana, a fellow committee member, said a meeting was held to discuss ways to help the Stead family.
“We printed fliers with his picture and a QR code to the Go Fund Me page and distributed them around town and at local businesses, asking for community support,” Fontana said.
“We’re trying to figure out a fundraising event we can do as soon as possible,” said Keith Simons, Scout Master of Troop 62. “Five or six parents are helping out.”
Both Fontana and Simons recalled how Stead made their younger sons feel welcome, with constant encouragement and support. Fontana said Stead and James were role models for her son, Jonathan, when he joined the troop.
“They’re wonderful people,” she said of the Stead family. “We all remember Chris as a happy, willing scout. He was always the first one to volunteer and teach the younger kids anything he knew. They were just a giving family.”
Simons recalled Stead’s dry sense of humor and “great laugh”. While sharing his love of scouting and the basic skills, Simons said Stead also taught the younger boys to be nice to others.
“There’s a way to kid around with people and a way not to, and he always knew how to do it the right way,” Simons said. “It speaks volumes. He was always a great kid and grew up to be a good man.”
Simons remembers hosting a campout on his property and allowing Boy Scouts to go into his house to use the bathroom. He said Christopher Stead always took his shoes off when he went inside, said hello to Simons’ wife and kids, and thank you while leaving the house.
After earning his Eagle, Stead continued to help the troop, according to Simons.
Upon hearing the news of Stead’s stroke, Simons said, “it was obviously a huge shock. He is really such a great kid. How could something happen to a kid like that? He was young and active. I feel bad for him and his family.”