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Lehighton employee saved after he suffers a stroke

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    Donald Dorward Jr.

Published December 06. 2017 12:35PM

An occasional employee absence might not raise eyebrows in most workplaces.

When custodian Donald “Bupp” Dorward Jr. didn’t show up for work on Nov. 2, his colleagues in Lehighton Area School District’s maintenance department began to worry.

Led by fellow employee James Cunfer, Lehighton’s team stepped into action, resulting in a chain of events that ultimately saved Dorward’s life.

A timely welfare check

On Nov. 2, Dorward, 51, was scheduled for custodial work at Franklin Elementary School, but never showed up.

“He’s never in his entire life showed up late, and I knew something was wrong,” said Cunfer, Dorward’s co-worker and personal friend. “A panic immediately went through me.”

Cunfer left work and made the short drive to Dorward’s residence.

A knock on the door drew no answer.

The dog was barking and Dorward’s truck was still in the driveway.

Cunfer alerted authorities, who responded for a welfare check.

“By the time I got home from my job at Mahoning Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, the police and the ambulance were already there,” Donald’s wife, Delores, said. “When they went in the house, he was laying on the floor unconscious. I can honestly say without a shadow of a doubt if it wouldn’t be for the Lehighton Area School District, my husband would be dead.”

Doctors said Donald had a brain bleed and the eventual diagnosis was that he suffered a stroke.

He was recently transferred to Good Shepherd Rehabilitation and is trying to do some things on his own.

“He tries to talk but is still having some trouble,” Delores said. “He gives us hugs and kisses and the doctors are optimistic about his outlook.”

Cunfer said he visits Donald frequently, most recently on Saturday.

“Every time we see him, there is improvement,” Cunfer said. “That has really been encouraging.”

He saved his own life

People in the community, including Delores, credit Lehighton’s staff with saving Don’s life, but Cunfer takes a different look at things.

“He saved his own life by being such a responsible and good person,” Cunfer said. “I don’t honestly know if it was someone who had a history of calling off and not showing, if it would have been as quick of a response or caused as much of a concern. But Don is just one of the best guys you’ll find. He never complains and he is so respected around here.”

Delores credited many people with playing a part in helping her husband, from her co-workers at Mahoning Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation Center to Franklin Township Police Chief Jason Doll to Lehighton Superintendent Jonathan Cleaver.

“Mr. Cleaver was at my house when I got there and he also drove my father-in-law to the hospital and stayed the whole time except to leave and grab us waters from the school,” she added.

Lessons can be learned from every situation, good or bad, and Delores hopes Donald’s story leads people to hug their loved ones a little longer.

“You never know what life holds,” she said.

Basket raffle and spaghetti dinner

Mahoning Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation Center employees organized a basket raffle, bake sale and spaghetti dinner at Bowmanstown Rod and Gun Club from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday to help benefit the family.

“I can’t begin to explain how helpful the ladies at work have been between setting up that event and working with me with my time off,” Delores said. “I am so grateful to all of them.”

District employees are also doing their part to contribute to the raffle.

“We just had a nurse here in the building contribute a $120 Keurig machine that she paid for out of her pocket,” he said. “It really warms my heart seeing how people have responded.”

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