On the track to recovery

Patrick Kunkel just saw his friend Stephen Vidman last weekend. The two were at Cedar Point and talked about going skydiving.

On Monday, things changed dramatically for Vidman, a 2013 McDonald High School graduate. He was working as an Ohio Department of Transportation flagger in Braceville when he was hit by a truck.

Kunkel got a call from friend Patrick McCarthy around 10:30 a.m. asking why people were tweeting, ”Pray for Vidman.” He wondered if something happened at Cedar Point.

After all, Vidman had had his fair share of setbacks. Before this, he’s had surgeries on both of his arms and both shoulders have popped out of place.

“He’s one of my best friends,” Kunkel said. “You never hear anything bad about him. He gets good grades. He comes from a great family. You just want to say it’s not fair.

“Me and my friends say to him, he has the worst luck it seems like sometimes, but this is by far the worst of anything.”

Vidman, 19, was struck by James Mahmet, 47, of Lake Milton, who was driving a 2008 Dodge flatbed tow truck toward the ODOT construction area on state Route 534. Initial reports indicated he glanced down at an electronic tablet inside the truck.

Possible charges are pending by the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Vidman, who played football and ran track at McDonald, planned to attend Youngstown State University this fall.

“Word started getting around so fast,” said Kunkel, who will attend the University of San Francisco. “Within 10 minutes, I knew everything. There was a story. Everyone was texting me for updates. People were texting me about updates. My phone was just blowing up the whole day Monday. There’s a whole lot of texting and calling these past couple of days.”

ODOT officials told WYTV 33 News that Vidman was flagging traffic on state Route 534 at state Route 82 for crews that are sealing cracks in the roadway when he was hit. An emergency medical helicopter took Vidman to a hospital at about 10:20 am to the Cleveland Clinic.

“The zone was properly posted with reflective vest, he was in clear site but the distracted driving made it a little bit difficult for him today,” patrol Sgt. Jeff Clem told 33 News. “He got struck by this wrecker and it was a rather large size truck, as you can see in your newscasts, and he sustained pretty good injuries.”

Stephen’s aunt, Rose Harden, said her nephew suffered two collapsed lungs, a ruptured spleen, broken left arm, tear in his aorta and a torn ACL.

“He’s speaking, but he’s in a lot of pain,” Harden said. “I take the pain as a sign of progress, but he’s still in excruciating pain.

”They had to do open-heart surgery and had to replace 10 inches of aorta. They said that was one of the biggest surgeries they had to perform in the Cleveland Clinic. Extremely lucky to be alive because the aorta was split in half.

”The nurses said when he was going in there that he was talking and smiling. They had no idea his injuries were that bad. So they did the X-rays, CAT Scan and everything,” Harden said.

“They were making him sit him up (Wednesday). Once he’s cleared with this, probably in a week, then assess the other injuries and see what surgery is going to be next.”

For now, the town of McDonald has rallied around Vidman’s parents, Stephen and Aixsa.

“We’re in the beginning stages of people want to help out in any way, shape or form,” resident Sherry Johnson said. “I think the best thing they can do for the Vidmans is just be positive, inspirational, get well wishes, gift cards or gas cards, because they’re going to be going back and forth, or any monetary donations. They’re actually staying at a hotel. That will help with the expenses of that.”

Johnson, who works at Tri Changes Salon in Girard, said she’ll take donations for the Vidmans there. She added Staci Conley is trying to get together a Facebook page as well and trying to spearhead the donations to the Vidmans.

“(Wednesday) we dropped off a couple hundred dollars and more cards went up to the family,” Johnson said.

The Vidman’s parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, opened its doors Monday evening for people to come and pray for Stephen’s recovery.

“Church doors were opened immediately and there was a large gathering of people that went there and said prayers and tried to organize a few things,” McDonald boys track and field coach Lou Domitrovich said. “That’s just the type of community that we are.

“I broke down in tears and you try to find out as much as you can and hope for the best and pray.”

Domitrovich said Vidman is the epitome of everything great about the town of McDonald.

The 5-foot-9, 155-pound graduate was a scholar-athlete of the school’s class of 2013, with much more emphasis on the academics, Domitrovich said.

“There’s a lot of people and kids that make our community and town the way that it is,” Domitrovich said. “Stephen is one of those kids. He’s one of the role models I would pick out and show off to the world. There’s no doubt about that.”