A Walk to Remember | the Brian Brown's Story
Imagine being told by doctors that you will never be able to walk again.
That was what Brian Brown was told when his life changed forever on Saturday, August 2, 2014.
Brown told Outlook that not only was he once physically active, engaging in a rigorous fitness routines - jogging and swimming - but he wore many hats professionally as well. From being the director of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and working at the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship, to acting in the very popular local TV drama, Royal Palm Estate. Brown also hosted local events and was recording music and videos for a mixtape he was working on, all the while attending school part-time.
In photo: Brown in cast with his daughter, Ayjha.
HOME IMPROVEMENT GONE AWRY
On the fateful day, Brown returned home from hosting a gig at around 6 a.m. With another scheduled for noon, he decided to address a leaking water tank. Instead of using a plumber as planned, he decided to tackle it himself. "I borrowed a ladder, took it up to the second floor, used it to get on to the roof, and, long story short, after admiring the view and making a few calls, I was ready to leave when something said to do so facing forward. I did, the ladder shifted with me on it and I went over, falling about 25 to 30 feet on to solid concrete, in slippers. I distinctly remember thinking, 'Man, this is going to hurt and I'm going to be late for the event - probably end up spraining my ankles'. I guess I braced for the impact, bent my knees upon landing squarely on my heels and then my butt. I tried to get up, but realised I couldn't."
His neighbours heard the crash and were at his home in minutes. He recalled that it was at that point that he jokingly asked if this was what it took for them to pay him a visit. "My neighbour, Paul, rushed me to the Cornwall Regional Hospital after I called a friend who is a doctor and asked her, based on my self-assessment, if it was OK for me to move without an ambulance." At the hospital, he learnt that he had shattered both heel bones. Even with all the medication they gave him, it was easily the most pain he ever felt in his life.
In photo: Brown always believed that he would walk again.
Brown admitted that this wasn't his first or second brush with the Grim Reaper, and while he was generally an optimistic person, it soon sank in just how serious this fall was. "Nothing they gave me at the hospital eased the pain. Only morphine was left to try. After about six hours of excruciating pain, I got X-rayed, got a temporary cast on both legs, received a pain medication prescription and was told to return in a week for plaster casting. On the way home, I realised I wouldn't be walking again anytime soon, so I asked my father and girlfriend to take me to the pharmacy to get a wheelchair. I figured I might as well skip the self-pity and depression stage and get on with it. It wasn't easy, though. Thankfully, I was raised to be humble, because this was by far the most humbling experience of my life."
When the doctor saw Brown again, he told him that based on the severity of his injuries, he would never be able to walk again. He recalled to Outlook that he smiled at the doctor and told him, "I'll walk again, doc." That optimism, along with his faith in God and the support he received from dedicated friends and family, was the driving force he needed to defy the odds. "My faith told me I would walk again - in just the same way I knew I had to get that wheelchair on day one and eat right and exercise. Those things were preparation for what was to come - learning to walk again. I never once accepted that it wouldn't happen."
He described a typical day after his ordeal: "Imagine having to be lifted in and out of a wheelchair by four to six persons. Having to be cleaned, clothed and fed, and not being able to shower for about five months. Don't worry, I 'tidied' every day! But I have a great family and friends, and my home was like a train station for the first three to four weeks, with people from all over coming to visit me every day. I told my family abroad not to disrupt their lives and come here to shack up with me in the house doing nothing, and to send money instead. Genius! Turns out I needed it because I had to have home care for about five months."
Brown with designs from his Bee Line Brand that he developed with his daughter while he was immobile. Available at Fontana Pharmacy in Montego Bay.
MOTIVATION CAME IN MANY FORMS
During that time on bed rest, he kept busy - resuming exercise, doing sit-ups, using dumbbells because he realised that he couldn't be too heavy for his pending physiotherapy sessions. He also teamed up with his daughter, Ayjha, friends and family to map out slogans for his new business venture - Bee Line Clothing, "Doing the website, getting designs and trademark, buying T-shirts, the works - all that happened during my four months in the cast and almost one year in the wheelchair."
Motivation, for him, came in many forms. The knowledge that he only had this moment, this day to live, his life became a big deal for him. "I didn't let anyone see me cry or get despondent, and I truly believe it was my faith in God, above all else that kept me grateful and moving. I try to live deliberately with the understanding that fear is mostly in our heads, so nothing is out of our reach." Family and friends helped, too, in letting him know that he wasn't alone on his journey. His daughter inspired him to show her that nothing can break your spirit unless you let it. His late grandmother who knelt down and prayed beside him for his recovery. And his girlfriend Audrey was the bedrock of everything. He thanked other people in his life who made all the difference - friends Mikey and Imhotep, Grace, his fellow board members at the chamber of commerce, just to name a few.
Fast-forward to 2017. He still can't stand or walk for very long, and sometimes he has to sit out a whole day with his feet elevated. That's how people realise how serious and long-term his injury is. But to him, the only important fact is that he is able to walk.
And, he made the necessary steps to live his life in as normal a way as possible. "The truth is, as soon as I could manage to, I was driving again, automatic this time. I also had the opportunity to represent Montego Bay at the Global Shapers event in Switzerland a year after. It was very painful to walk and stand then, but I took my stick and hobbled all over that part of Europe that summer. Also, before long, I was back into my routine, even attending a chamber of commerce board meeting in my wheelchair, and started doing a few emcee gigs a few months after that. Eventually, I got myself a manual transmission turbocharged Subaru Forester. My rationale was that it helped both feet with my physiotherapy," he explained.
He looked forward to swimming again, and it came in handy as it was the perfect workout for his ankles. Most times, he said, he feels pain, just on different levels, and has made adjustments to suit his needs. "As long as I'm upright or moving, I'm in pain. I've had to get custom insoles and can only wear certain types of shoes. I rely on my trusted walking stick from time to time. But, sometimes I forget I have a permanent condition and people who see me now always commend me on how far I've come." Beaming with optimism, he also shared: "It makes for a great icebreaker, too. 'So what happened to you, Brian?' Well, that's a funny story. Did I ever tell you about my leap of faith?"
Since then he has recorded the rest of his mixtape, moved up to an executive position in the chamber of commerce, and been a finalist in the Branson Guinness 'Made of More' entrepreneur challenge. He was named one of three winners of the Innovation Award for his company LivewireACT by the NCB Nation Builder committee; pitched and won a grant for said company, courtesy of the Development Bank of Jamaica; hired his first full-time employee; auditioned for and won a lead role in last year's Lennie Little-White-directed movie It's A Family Affair; and copped the award for Most Outstanding Director for 2016 at the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
He now has a greater appreciation for things people often take for granted, like running or climbing a steep incline, subtle foot movements that he cannot do. But he has kept moving. He has learnt through this experience that he won't ever leave this place regretting anything he didn't have the courage to try doing.
"It's all about faith and perspective. Faith tells you that as long as you're alive, things can get better. Real faith is when you have no logical reason to believe things will improve, but you do so anyway. I now fully accept that God is on our side if we are on His. All things are possible for those who believe, think and act from a place of positivity and authenticity." He added: "Take one day at time, live like today is all you have, be humble and respectful and, above all things, have faith and always be positive".