John Redman walked across the Bandy Gymnasium basketball court for the first time since he suffered life-threatening injuries in a car accident he can’t remember and yet can’t forget.
The gym wasn’t empty.
The Dalton State College players happily paused during their Wednesday afternoon shootaround to greet their assistant coach.
“Hey, look, it’s coach!”
“What’s up, coach?”
“Good to see you back, coach.”
For all who have followed Redman’s story since the life-changing accident, it is good to see him back home, in Dalton, where he and fiancee Brittany Huber had planned a future. But it’s also a bit heartbreaking.
For the first time in a long time, Redman was back on the Dalton State campus. Earlier that afternoon, for the first time in a long time, he was back in the house he and Huber shared. Redman’s past few days have included many firsts since the car accident that claimed Huber’s life and nearly his own.
“Going home was really tough,” Redman said Wednesday in his first interview since the accident. “That’s going to be tough for a long time.”
Redman spoke to The Daily Citizen about his recovery, the support he’s received from the Dalton community and his hopes of returning to coaching.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” he said. “Every day. It’s crazy. Physically, I feel a lot better now.”
About one month ago, the situation was much bleaker.
‘Doom and gloom’
Redman and Huber’s accident happened on April 28 as the couple headed to Mobile, Ala., for their wedding, which was scheduled six days later. On I-85 in Meriwether County, near mile marker 33 — about 40 miles south of Atlanta — Redman lost control of his 2008 Lexus and hit the concrete bridge support of an overhead bridge at about 7:15 p.m. that night. The vehicle’s initial impact was on the passenger side.
Huber is believed to have died on impact. Redman, who was unresponsive to paramedics when they arrived, suffered a brain injury.
Huber worked at City Park Elementary School in Dalton as a teacher’s assistant, and the school held a memorial service on May 23, the last day of school. Redman’s father, Bo Redman, said that was the same day he and Huber’s parents told Redman about his fiancee’s death.
The family requested The Daily Citizen not ask Redman questions about Huber because of the delicate nature of the topic and the fact that he hasn’t made a full cognitive recovery.
Redman, sent to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta following the crash, was in a medically induced coma soon after the event. He progressed through May, when he started talking and walking. He was released June 6 from the Shepherd Center, which treats victims of spinal cord and brain injuries. He moved to the Irene and George Woodruff Family Residence Center, on the Shepherd Center’s campus, last Friday. He started rehabilitation Monday at Pathways, Shepherd’s outpatient facility.
“It’s God’s blessing,” Redman said. “God has been good on me.”
Redman’s stepfather, Kevin Kirk, previously told The Daily Citizen that the Dalton State assistant coach will be in the outpatient rehab program for 30 to 180 days. He also said in the same interview that, in the immediate weeks following the interview, doctors at Grady Memorial expressed the possibility the coach could spend the rest of his life supported by tubes and machines.
“We never lost the faith,” Bo said. “We were 100 percent confident he would return. Even at Grady, there were some doom-and-gloom days.”
Coach Redman’s mother, Susie Kirk, wasn’t so sure.
“Well,” she said, “I don’t know about 100 percent confident.”