Some mornings, if it’s not too hot or too cold or raindrops aren't splashing all over the city, Wes Heath will slide into his motorized scooter and ride from his home in Castlegate to the Waffle House on Zebulon Road.
It's a distance of about 3.5 miles, and Wes knows every bump on the sidewalk, every crack along the curb.
There’s a regular group that meets there, one of those caffeinated think tanks that tries to solve the problems of the world over toast and coffee.
It’s a big job, but somebody’s got to do it. Pass the cream and sugar, please.
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"The other day we were talking about the new convention hotel and the widening of Forest Hill Road," said Wes.
Unfortunately, his health isn't on the long list of problems that can be solved. But helping out Wes and his family is.
I have known Wes for 15 years. My wife has been friends with him since their high school days at Northeast. He's a top-notch guy, salt of the earth. I can't imagine him having a single enemy.
So it hasn't been easy to watch his health slip. He has always been so active and involved. He played church softball at Centenary Methodist. An avid golfer, he once made three holes-in-one in the same year. His stepfather, the late Jack Morgan, was a five-time city champion.
Wes has always been a "people" person, the kind of fellow who will rush to your side if you need him. He is a devoted husband to Tina, his high school sweetheart. Tina works as a nurse in labor and delivery at The Medical Center of Central Georgia. They will celebrate their 27th anniversary Sept. 27.
He is the loving father of three children. Son Wes is a singer/songwriter of local renown, now living in the Florida panhandle. Ryan works for UPS. Kaitlin, a senior at First Presbyterian Day School, has made a name for herself in local theater and dance.
When he was 30, Wes had a tumor removed.
"I thought that was the sickest I would ever be," he said. "And then this came along."
Wes has multiple sclerosis, a debilitating neurological disease that affects about 400,000 Americans. He is 49 years old. The past few years have been a series of adjustments. He has gone from a cane to a walker and now a wheelchair.
"The best way to describe it is that I can’t get the messages from my brain to my legs," he said. "It’s so unpredictable. Some days, I can get out of bed and have a good day. Then, I can wake up the next day and not even be able to get out of bed."
It’s toughest when he runs into an old friend or classmate he hasn't seen in a while. Of course, the first thing they notice is the wheelchair. What happened?
"Some days I can talk about it. Some days I can’t," he said. "If I can’t talk about it at the time, I always try to call them back later and explain that I have MS."
Wes may have his own informal support group at the Waffle House, but his circle is much wider than that. That's why a bunch of folks have organized a benefit golf tournament for the Heath family Oct. 13 at Oakview Golf and Country Club off Hartley Bridge Road.
Proceeds will go toward the purchase of a handicapped accessible van for Wes, so he won't have to rely on his scooter to get him down to the Waffle House for eggs and grits. For information about the tournament or how you can help Wes, call 746-0216 or register at www.wesandtinaheath.com.
If having a great attitude is half the battle, this is how the Wes was won.