Atkinson says he'll be in Salem next January


State Sen. Jason Atkinson, R-Central Point, said he plans to be in Salem when the Oregon Legislature convenes in January despite the months of rehabilitation he faces in an attempt to regain full use of his leg following a bizarre shooting.

Atkinson, who ran for governor two years ago and is mentioned as a possible contender for 2010, dropped a sack containing a .38-caliber derringer on his garage floor last month. It discharged and sent a bullet into his right leg above the knee.

Lying in a pool of blood, Atkinson said he looked up to see his wife, Stephanie. She plugged the bullet hole with her finger and cinched a bicycle tube around his leg.

"She was just so calm," Atkinson told The Oregonian by telephone Wednesday in his first public interview since the gunshot. "I wouldn't look at my leg. I could feel all the warm blood around the outside."

Atkinson discussed the accident, the follow-up surgeries and his hopes for regaining full use of his leg. "No one's saying full recovery, but no one's saying not full recovery," Atkinson said. "So I'm saying full recovery."

Atkinson focused on the role his wife, his friends and his faith have played in turning what could have been a tragedy into a life-changing, uplifting experience.

He revealed publicly for the first time that, during the special legislative session earlier this year, Stephanie Atkinson was diagnosed with thyroid cancer &

a disease she appears to have beaten with surgery.

"We kept it very quiet, very private," Atkinson said. "Now she's cancer free." That, combined with their son's four weeks in intensive care as a premature baby, has given Atkinson a deep appreciation for nurses, doctors and "the hand of God."

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