Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

March 14, 2013

Spc. Anthony Walton to undergo surgery Friday

By Kelly Lafferty
Tribune staff writer

— On Friday morning, U.S. Army Specialist Anthony Walton will undergo what he hopes will be his last head surgery.

After suffering head injuries from falling backward onto pavement last December, doctors had to remove part of his skull in order to reduce brain swelling. Walton spent a month at St. Vincent’s in Indianapolis and was able to return to his home in Kokomo early January.

During the final surgery, doctors will reattach the part of the skull they removed. Although the surgery is elective, doctors have highly recommended it to Walton since he currently has nothing protecting half of his brain.

“Even a tennis ball could hit me right there, and could do a lot of damage,” said Walton. “I can’t have that risk.”

Over the past several months, doctors have monitored his brain swelling, which has gone down enough for surgery.

Although doctors are confident the surgery will be a success, it does come with its own risks.

There is a chance that his body could reject the skull, or that his skull has shifted over the past several months to the point where the original skull they removed wouldn’t fit.

If this is the case, then doctors would build a synthetic skull for Walton.

Ideally, Walton will spend about three to seven days in the hospital recuperating from his surgery, and doctors plan on waking him up within hours after the procedure.

Walton is glad the surgery is happening before Spring Break and is looking forward to visiting with people he hasn’t seen yet since being back home.

“If we can handle to get away during the Spring Break time, I would love to get away with the wife and kids,” said Walton. “Even if it’s just the Indianapolis Zoo.”

During the past several months, the Walton family has spent lots of time unpacking, painting, putting a fence in the backyard, putting up handrails for easier accessibility for Walton and enjoying time personalizing their new home.

Even though there have been a few glitches, Walton attributes them to being common experiences homeowners have with the construction of a new home. With the help of local businesses and contractors stopping by, the problems have been fixed quickly.

“It’s quite obvious now that there’s no way with the house the way it was before that I would have been able to focus on my health,” said Walton. “I want to make sure my community gets thanked for the home because that’s who built it. Because of the community, we can focus on my health, and my kids are safe.”

After seeing the effect the community has had in his own life, Walton wants to turn around and help the Howard County community, particularly the veteran population.

One plan he really wants to pursue is establishing a local VA facility, since there are none in Howard County.

“I don’t care if it takes me ten years to get it,” he said. “If I have to be the voice, so be it. That’s going to benefit our community.”

Walton also has plans to start an art therapy studio for veterans, and get more involved in helping homeless veterans.

“I want them to know that I’m not going anywhere,” he said.