Hutchinson Brandon and Wendy Hildebrand made lots of plans in their four years of marriage.
One thing they never planned was that Brandon would one day be a paraplegic.
Now a year after the motorcycle accident that left the 35-year-old Brandon paralyzed, he continues to work at becoming stronger.
A year ago Brandon was a business partner with Jake Bigger, at Innovative Tint, & Graphics. Because of his physical condition, Hildebrand’s accountant suggested Bigger buy out Hildebrand’s share of the business. But still two or three days a week Wendy brings Brandon to the shop where he and Bigger once tinted car windows, wrapped cars, and did graphic designs.
“Jake has been a good friend with everything I put him through, running this place for a year,” Hildebrand said.
“He’ll be back,” Bigger said, with confidence.
The two have been friends since 1993, bonded by their love for car stereos and mini trucks. While Hildebrand’s accident threw a wrench into their business plans, Bigger said they couldn’t just quit.
“This was our livelihood,” Bigger said.
Back on May 28, 2009, Brandon was riding his motorcycle on an Arizona highway about 30 miles north of Phoenix, through the hills, when he miscalculated a curve. Though wearing a helmet, he was seriously injured, severing his spine.
Hildebrand attributes the progress he has made in the past 12 months to Wendy. After the accident his wife never left his side, taking a leave from work at Hutchinson Credit Union until mid- August.
A year later, she remains appreciative of her employer for allowing her to stay with Brandon, while he recovered in an acute rehabilitation hospital in Arizona and at Our Lady of Lourdes, in Wichita.
Not to say this has been an easy year. Some days were “excruciatingly challenging,” Wendy said.
Brandon admits that there are days he doesn’t want to get out of bed, because the physical pain is unbearable.
While he can’t feel his legs, there is what is known as phantom pains. “It isn’t there, but it is there,” he said.
Wendy says that without their base unit of family and friends and support, they wouldn’t be where are today, she said. But, she added, many strangers have come to their assistance. Last summer, a significant sum of money was raised in the community at a time when they were relying on one paycheck to see them through and keep them in their home.
“It’s overwhelming what the community and surrounding area has done,” she said.
But, paramount to that, she marvels at how far Brandon has come — “From watching him barely able to sit up for two minutes to now, where he is 100 percent independent.”