Kevin Stephen drove to the Port of Houston on August 28, 2012, just like every workday. As a longshoreman team leader, the 50-year-old supervised the freight discharge of cargo ships.
But on this summer day, when he opened the container hatch, he realized something was wrong. You see, a longshoreman’s work is a highly skilled dance of balance and weight management to move maritime trade cargo from point A to point B. This particular shipment hadn’t been secured properly and the contents of heavy pipe had shifted in transport.
Carefully, Kevin’s team started off-loading the pipe at 7:30 a.m. “In this job, we’re always aware of safety,” he says. “The most dangerous times of the day are early morning, just before lunch and just before quitting time. People tend to lose focus and can get a little too comfortable.” At 10:40 a.m., two pipes escaped their bundle and began rolling.
“I was out in front, protecting the younger employees,” he remembers. “I fell backward and was caught between 2,400 pounds of running pipe and stationary pipe.”
Kevin never lost consciousness, though he couldn’t breathe well or walk. A basket was lowered into the cargo hull to lift him out, and he was rushed to the trauma center at Harris Health Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital.
“It was all a blur,” he says. “I was in worse shape than I thought. The doctors kept asking me questions but I didn’t feel like talking. They finally decided that I didn’t need surgery, and I remember they celebrated that.”
Kevin’s injuries were extensive — fractured ribs, pelvis, hip; hemothorax; punctured lung; lacerated liver and kidney. A college football player, he had stayed fit so being in good shape before the accident played a positive role in how his body handled the injury.
Kevin was bedridden at LBJ for a week. “They were adamant about my recovery. Every day they were pushing me, getting my lungs functioning properly, getting me mobile.” Today, he continues to improve with physical therapy.
“My care at LBJ was excellent. The people there need to know they are the best. They have pride in their work and it shows. They’re efficient. They really took care of me.”