Terrence Britt is handicapable

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 23, 2004

Since I have retired, I have been asked by some readers what article has impacted my life the most as a writer. It was really a series of articles that I did back in the 80s under the heading, &uot;Overcoming Adversities.&uot;

These articles dealt with the disabled and terminally ill, who lived normal lives in spite of their situations. I called these people handicapable instead of handicapped. The late Ed Gray, a watch repairman at Barr Bros. Jewelry Store, was also handicap and was instrumental in helping me obtain people who gave me their stories similar the interviewee in this column, Terrence Britt, who is also a role model in overcoming an adversity.

Ever since Britt was 14, he has had a talent for making delicious dishes. During his lifetime he has worked in different restaurants and catered parties and social functions. His most recent employment was at his restaurant on East Washington Street that still bears the name, Terrence’s Cafe. There he prepared all types of soul food and opened six days a week. The restaurant was open from October 2001 until July 2003.

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About 10 years ago Britt was diagnosed as a diabetic. Before the restaurant closed, he dropped a can on his foot causing a cut in the skin and said that instead of going to the doctor, he began working on it himself thinking that it was going to get better but it only got worse.

&uot;I got to the point where I was feeling so bad I didn’t know what was happening to me. If it had not been for my sister, Rosalind Britt, I don’t know where I would be today. One Monday morning in September, she came over and saw the foot. She was going to take me to the Obici Hospital emergency room in her car but decided to call the Suffolk Rescue Squad because it looked so bad. My foot was examined about 11 a.m. and I was told by the doctor that I could lose my leg or lose my life. By 6 p.m. that evening the leg was amputated a little below the knee and I was admitted after the operation.

&uot;I was released from the hospital in December 2003 but during my stay I developed a staph infection, was put in isolation, and all of my visitors had to be quarantined because doctors didn’t want me to catch any germs. I was also told by some nurses and medical personnel that I would not lead a normal life unless I stayed in a nursing home when I was released.

&uot;My family visited me just about every day when I was hospitalized and Dr. Carlton Upton also came two or three times a week to pray with me. He is not my minister but my mother’s and aunt’s minister. That is why I want to thank him for what he did for me. I cried over the thought that I may have to go to a nursing home and revealed what I was told to Rev. Upton. He told me to pray because he was sure that I would not go. Evelyn, you don’t know how much those words meant to me,&uot; he said.

Britt received his prosthetic in January and his strong determination enabled him to walk well the first day. In the meantime, he underwent two weeks of therapy at Newport News Riverside Hospital, soon after the leg was amputated. Since January he has been taking therapy at Therapy Concepts and said that he wants to thank his special therapists Michelle and Greg Barone and Robin Word for their patience and help.

&uot;At Therapy Concepts I have met a lot of patients and we looked forward to going to therapy each day. I have been asked by personnel to lift the spirits of some who are a little depressed before they take it because I have done so well. My sisters Rosalind Britt and Avis Blowe and my mother, Betty Britt, visited me every day when he I was receiving therapy at Riverside and after I came home in December. I can’t express enough gratitude for their love and support. I am also very grateful for the help and support of a special aunt, Peggy Reid and home healthcare nurses Bertha Wigfall and Loretta Boone,&uot; he said. His father is Roosevelt Britt.

Before he came home some people had wanted him to get a downstairs apartment so that he wouldn’t have to navigate the stairs. Britt didn’t want to move from the home that he had been so familiar with for the past 15 years, so with his determination and positive attitude, he has been living a very normal life and doesn’t have any trouble using the stairs, drives his own car and does his own shopping, pushing a basket instead of using a motorized cart.

He is also catering again. One of his specialties is preparing yock-a-mein dinners, a favorite Chinese dish that is popular in the black community.

On the day of this interview, Friday, July 16, he was preparing 12 cakes and a gigantic sheet cake for one of his therapist’s parents’ 50th wedding anniversary party that was held in Chesapeake last Saturday.

Britt said that after he dropped the can on his foot, he had heard many rumors, one of which purported that a friend, Korey Jacobs, had caused his injury, a rumor Britt emphatically denied. He also said that when Jacobs learned what happened to him, he did all he could to make him comfortable around the house. Another untrue rumor that circulated was that he had died.

He said that people even sent flowers to his sister’s home and told her that they were sorry to hear what had happened to him.

&uot;I just want to give thanks to God because if it wasn’t for God, I would not have been given a second chance at life,&uot; he said.

However, &uot;Behind every cloud there is a silver lining. Britt’s silver lining. is his determination that has made him handicapable instead of handicapped.

&uot;I just wanted to tell my story so that people with an illness or handicap won’t give up when they are told by someone else that they will not be able to do something that they may desire to do,&uot; he said. &uot;You just have to make up your mind what you want to do and just do it. If I did, anyone can.&uot;

Evelyn Wall is a former News-Herald reporter and a regular columnist.