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Dad finds help in quest to walk again

POSTED: December 6, 2012 5:30 p.m.
Autumn Vetter/

Brian Wiley, who survived a stroke two years ago, and wife Susan are grateful for ongoing community support. Partially paralyzed, Wiley will undergo a procedure next week to help him walk again.

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After suffering a stroke that left him partially paralyzed, Brian Wiley considers himself a lucky man.

“Not many people get a second chance in life,” he said. “There’s got to be a purpose for it.”

It’s been two years since the Forsyth County father, then 49, was rushed to the hospital. Wiley said he was at his mother’s home in Alpharetta when he felt something pop in the side of his face.

“I could feel it go up to my brain,” he said. “When I slurred my speech, I knew what it was.”

The doctors weren’t sure he would make it out alive. But Wiley knew he would. He saw a bright light and people crowded around him. His body was below.

“I said, ‘God, please don’t let me die,’” he said.

Wiley lost his father at 12 years old, and he wasn’t about to leave his children.

His other half

Wiley’s wife, Susan, said she was “scared to death,” as doctors asked her to make a decision about an emergency surgery to save his life.

A blood vessel had burst in his brain as a result of long-term high blood pressure left untreated. The doctors told her he might never talk or walk again.

Two years after that day in November, Brian Wiley talked about a surgery he will undergo soon that could allow him to walk again.

“How many days?” he asked his wife.

“Ten days,” she responded.

The rare procedure will install a Baclofen pump in his spine, which will pump the medication needed to relieve his muscle condition known as spasticity.

Brian Wiley explained that tightness in his muscles makes it feel like he’s dragging a 50-pound weight on his leg.

It took nearly six months before he could take a step, according to Susan Wiley. He can now walk a few steps with a cane, but she said he still has no mobility in his left arm.

Brian Wiley wasn’t sure whether he wanted to have the operation until his final physical therapy session, when he was told he couldn’t progress any further on his own.

It took four months just to see the doctor at Emory Hospital who can perform the operation.

Susan Wiley said the doctor believes he could walk again and may regain some control of his left arm.

“That’s when his wheels started turning,” she said. “He’s like this might could really work.”

At a cost of $20,000 to the family after insurance, the next obstacle looked like a mountain. The medical expenses of the stroke and Brian Wiley’s inability to work had depleted the family’s resources.

As they had before, though, the Wileys’ friends, family and community pitched in with donations and assistance any way they could.

A familiar face

Brian Wiley often meets people who recognize his face, regardless of whether he remembers them.

As the longtime manager of Midway Fuel and Shine at Post Road and Atlanta Highway, he became a friend to many customers over the years.

He was also born and raised in Alpharetta and graduated from Milton High School in 1981.

After earning a degree from University of Georgia, Brian Wiley worked at the family’s convenience store, Midway Self Service.

He married Susan Wiley in 1991 and the two moved to Forsyth County, where they later welcomed two children.

Brandon, 18, and Lauren, 16, attend West Forsyth High School, where he plays baseball and she is a competition cheerleader.

The Forsyth County family found support after his stroke from the relationships they have in the area.

Susan Wiley remembered her preschool students at Midway United Methodist Church brought her a plastic bag filled with quarters so she could pay the Ga. 400 toll booth when driving her husband to and from the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.

A donation bucket was set up at the convenience store he once operated.

Most recently, when Brian Wiley decided to have the surgery, his friends from high school began organizing charity events to help raise funds.

It was acts like those that kept Susan Wiley going.

“I had a lot of struggles with, ‘Why me? Why us?’ But just from the community and our families, the way everyone has helped us out, I just really feel like there’s a reason this happened,” she said. “We don’t know what it is yet, but I think God has a plan for us.”

Family and faith

After his stroke, Brian Wiley’s wife and children had their first Thanksgiving and Christmas with him in the hospital and away from home.

The holiday season wasn’t as joyous as before, but Lauren Wiley said the family seemed more grateful. She watched as everyone took on new roles.

Her mother began performing basic daily care for her father and her brother assumed the tasks as the “man of the house.”

Brandon Wiley said he began to develop a close relationship with his dad’s brother, his uncle Jay.

“He took me fishing, basically became a second father to me,” Brandon Wiley said.

It was nearly a year to the day later that Jay Wiley died of a stroke from a heart fibrillation that traveled to his brain.

His death had a big impact on Brandon Wiley, whose senior essay addressed his struggles with it.

“Right then and there I became the head of the family,” he wrote. “I had to grow up faster than I intended and became a man at 17 years old.

“I now realize God gives his biggest, toughest battles to his strongest soldiers. In that case, he dealt me these cards and trusted me to become a strong, loving and heart-filled young man.”

Lauren Wiley has taken the trying times as a call to study speech therapy, since she wants to help those in that area.

She said it’s also brought her and her older brother closer — something she thinks may have been “part of God’s plan.”

In his own faith, Brian Wiley said he’s getting closer to God.

“I consider myself lucky in a lot of ways,” he said. “Not many people get to experience an out-of-body experience, even for just three seconds. I’ve learned how much my family loves me, and we’ve pulled together to make it work.”

 

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