Community rallies to help Brandie Johnson, family
CANON – You never forget the days that change your life.
Paul Hood vividly remembers the day that changed the life of his family, especially his daughter, Brandie Johnson.
“It was a cold, rainy day in January,” Paul said. “Brandie had left to go to work and my wife (Tammie) and I were in the trailer. We saw an ambulance go by the house and I thought about following it, but I decided not to. Later, my wife told me she almost told me to follow it, but she didn’t.”
If Paul, who is a pastor, had followed the ambulance, he would have discovered it was on its way to help his daughter.
It wasn’t until around 3 p.m. that day that they received a phone call informing them that Brandie had been in an accident and was at Piedmont Athens Regional Hospital where they planned to operate on her.
“That was the longest ride of my life,” Paul said. “When we got there, they wouldn’t tell us anything.”
Paul also said the first time he saw Brandie after the accident he thought they were too late.
“She looked like she was covered up,” Paul said.
Paul and Tammie later learned that Brandie was paralyzed from the neck down.
Brandie, however, has no memory of the time when she was paralyzed from the neck down.
Paul and her sister, Mandie Raymo, told her that was what the doctors said before she had surgery.
“She was in worse condition before the surgery than she is now,” Paul said. “They operated on her twice at Piedmont Athens. They told us her C6 and C7 were dislocated and her clavicle was broken. I stayed with her until her surgery.”
Brandie had a little setback while at the hospital in Athens when she had DVT (deep venous thrombosis) in her leg, which is a blood clot embedded in one of the major deep veins of the lower legs.
Knowing that Brandie was going to need a lot of help going forward, Tammie’s employer, LifeSprings, helped them with getting in touch with resources that could help them.
“Greg Hearn told his assistant to research resources we could use,” Tammie said. “They’re the ones who got us in touch with the Disability Resource Center and the Shepherd Center.”
When Brandie left the hospital on Feb. 13, she went straight to the Shepherd Center.
The Shepherd Center is a private, not-for-profit hospital in Atlanta that specializes in spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation.
She stayed there until April 29.
“It’s hard to describe how I felt when I learned of all the care she was going to need,” Tammie said. “Before this happened, I didn’t know anything medical related and had no interest in knowing. My whole world fell apart. When I was talking to the lady from the Shepherd Center, she made it seem like I had to give up my whole world to help Brandie.”
That didn’t end up being the case.
Through the Shepherd Center, Tammie and Brandie learned how to communicate with one another to make sure that Brandie’s needs are being met.
“Being at the Shepherd Center was a happy and emotional time for me,” Brandie said. “I really enjoyed my time there. I went through a great deal of therapy. I had to do an hour and a half of OT (occupational therapy) and an hour and a half of PT (physical therapy) Monday through Friday. I also had to do two hours a week of strength training.”
Being at the Shepherd Center wasn’t all work.
Brandie enjoyed the outings they went on, especially the one to the Atlanta Zoo.
Tammie also received training at the Shepherd Center to help Brandie.
“It took a total of seven days to receive all of the training,” Tammie said. “As she progressed with her therapy, the training changed.”
Since the accident, Brandie feels like the only thing about her life that has really changed is the fact that she has to be more codependent.
Paul, however, disagrees.
He said she is now more loving and more family-oriented.
The one thing that hasn’t diminished about Brandie throughout the entire ordeal is her sense of humor.
“I was telling Daddy the other day that people are breaking their necks to be treated like I am,” Brandie said with a grin.
Tammie said the two biggest things that has helped her through this is Brandie’s attitude and the outside support the family has received.
“She behaves as if nothing has happened,” Tammie said. “That has given me the courage and peace to be able to do this. We have not looked at this as a bad thing. We look at it as if God has been doing something.”
And God has moved mountains for them.
Not only were they able to get in touch with Nancy Peeples at the Disability Resource Center, who built a porch onto their home, but the Franklin County Rotary Club built a ramp onto the house for Brandie.
They have also been blessed by family, friends and strangers.
People have provided the family with food, sent get well cards, given them money, provided tires for Brandie’s son’s vehicle, given Brandie an electric wheelchair, given the family a vehicle to help with transporting Brandie and much more. Brandie was even able to begin getting her Medicaid and Social Security the same day she went to the Shepherd Center.
“People have told me they have never known it to start that quick,” Paul said. “We have received prayers from everywhere. We still don’t know what God is going to do. God has showed up and showed out.”
The family said this has brought them all closer together.
“People we haven’t talked to in years have called,” Brandie said. “The community has been amazing.”
Paul said the accident has shown him that there are no enemies because “we are all God’s children.”
Bible Way in Royston is hosting a benefit at Destiny Fellowship on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. to benefit Brandie, who is planning to sing during the benefit.
“Everyone has been so wonderful to my parents, sister, three children and me during this time,” Brandie said.