Petty Officer 1st Class Doyle Stanley, a 12-year serviceman who was partially debilitated after surgery in a Naval hospital and then recommended for retirement against his wishes, can remain in the Navy.

John Lehman, secretary of the Navy, announced in a prepared statement yesterday that he offered Stanley "the opportunity to remain permanently on active duty in the Navy. He is an outstanding sailor and has great potential for the future."

Lehman's offer came a day before Stanley was scheduled to appear before a Navy retirement board. Stanley, who was told of the offer late yesterday by his military attorney, said he still planned to appear for his retirement board hearing, scheduled for this morning.

"Until I know for certain, I'm not going to refuse an order" to appear before the board, said Stanley, contacted at a hotel in Chevy Chase. "I want to see who is going to do what and when."

Stanley underwent surgery two years ago at Jacksonville Regional Medical Center for a benign bone tumor in his sinus. Since that time, he repeatedly has sought medical help at naval hospitals in Jacksonville, Bethesda and Portsmouth to battle a staph infection that began after the surgery. The infection went undetected until a private doctor, whom Stanley consulted, diagnosed it. In the course of treatment for the infection, Stanley lost part of his skull. His ordeal was chronicled in yesterday's editions of The Washington Post.

Stanley, a legal resident of Tennessee, had appealed to Sen. James Sasser (D-Tenn.) for help. He also expressed dissatisfaction with his military care -- although he was seen without problems at Walter Reed Medical Center -- and said he would like to receive private treatment.

Late last year, Stanley, who now lives with his wife and two small children in Virginia Beach, was recommended against his wishes for retirement by a Navy board. That recommendation would have retired him with 50 percent disability pay.

Stanley appealed that decision but was told the Navy would maintain its recommendation to the retirement board.

The announcement by Lehman, which added an option to Stanley's military future, also raised some questions. According to Lehman's statement, Stanley currently is assigned to limited duty at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va. But Stanley was reassigned last week to the naval base at Norfolk.

Lt. Stephen Pietropaoli, a navy spokesman, said he could not say why Lehman decided to offer the option. "He's impressed with [Stanley's] courage and perseverance," Pietropaoli said.