The words were slow to come.
Brian Hill, his wife at his side, was in his electric wheelchair in a courtyard at the Macon nursing home where he has spent much of the past year and a half. There’s a gazebo, fresh air, flowers.
In March 2014, after emergency surgery for a digestive tract disorder, Hill had a stroke. Then another.
At age 45, he is a paralyzed on his left side and can’t walk.
There in the courtyard the other day, he and Lashanda, his wife, were talking to a visitor about how, for them, things are different now.
Brian, who can still speak, didn’t say much.
It was Lashanda who told how Brian had gone from being a tech-support supervisor for an internet company in Albany to managing the office at a veterinary clinic in Warner Robins to earning a degree in electronics at Fort Valley State University to, now, needing around-the-clock care.
They live in Fort Valley.
While Brian has been in the nursing home, Lashanda has renovated their house, made it wheelchair-friendly. She had a ramp installed, widened door frames, pulled up the carpets so Brian’s chair can roll better. But that was all they could afford. They need help to pay for a handicapped-accessible van for when Brian moves home. Used vans, Lashanda has heard, can cost $40,000.
When he can, Brian goes home on weekends. Lashanda recently took him to the movies to see “Boo! A Madea Halloween.”
“He got kind of emotional,” Lashanda said of the outing, “because we did things all the time as a family. Now he has to depend on everybody else to get him around.”
He and Lashanda met in Albany. They took a photography class. They liked taking pictures.
They moved to Middle Georgia a few years back with hopes of landing work at Robins Air Force Base.
Brian misses getting up and going to work every day. He also misses seeing his 12-year-old son, Brian II, play rec-league football.
Most days, Brian watches TV to pass the time.
“We’re used to the change,” Lashanda said. “We’re OK with that because he’s still here. Had he had that stroke on the other side of his brain, he probably couldn’t talk or see. So we’re OK.”
Brian was still beside her the other day in the courtyard when a visitor asked about how they were adjusting, how things were different for them now.
“You’ve got to kind of pull the words out of him,” Lashanda told the visitor.
She turned to her husband.
“How do you feel here,” she asked him, “compared to being home and how your life was back in 2014, before March of 2014? How were you before?”
A moment passed.
“I had a life,” he said.
Editor’s note: To donate to Brian Hill, the subject of today’s Reindeer Gang feature — the Telegraph’s annual profiles of people and families in need at the holidays — call Disability Connections at 478-741-1425.