Lanna Brickhaus — A Caregiver’s Story

Bobby Jackson, left, with Lanna BrickhausLanna Brickhaus was filled with trepidation when she took a part-time job as a caregiver to an injured veteran. Today her family’s special relationship with a man her kids affectionately call “Uncle Bobby” has made them the envy of other members who seek a "Lanna" for themselves.

Since 1986, Lanna has been the caregiver for Bobby Jackson, an Air Force staff sergeant who was injured in an auto accident, resulting in incomplete quadriplegia. He also has a prosthetic limb.

Lanna was 21 and had recently finished a medical assistant program when Jackson came into her life. Her mother was managing a Missouri mobile home park when a woman from the VA hospital came to scout out a lot for him. Jackson was 24 and about to leave the hospital, but living with his parents was out of the question.

Lanna thought, “I wouldn’t want to go into a nursing home.”

But she was shocked and scared when the woman asked if she’d work for Bobby on weekends. She didn’t have a clue how to do the job, but Bobby trained her in all the details until she was competent and comfortable.

With confidence that she could do the job, which includes helping him dress, attending to personal hygiene, preparing meals, and helping him in and out of bed, Lanna began working full-time for Bobby, a current board member of Paralyzed Veterans of America's Gateway Chapter and chapter sports director, a few months later.

She got married the following week. After the couple’s first son was born, the family quickly realized their home was too small. Bobby bought a house and the family moved in. They now call Cedar Hill, Mo., home.

“Bobby has always been an integral part of our family life,” Lanna said. “Over the years, Bobby has been nothing but “kind, generous and loving…without Bobby, our family would not be a family.”

Though Bobby is relatively independent—he drives—and on Sundays enjoys going to church and lunch with friends, providing her “kind of my day off,” she said, he is never far from her mind.

“When we are places, I always have to think about what time to be home. No last minute 'let's do this,' because I have to get back to Bobby.

"But the greatest benefit I have received is that I got to be a stay-at-home mommy with my two boys, so no regrets! If I had to work out of the home and drive to my job, I don't think I would enjoy it as much. I'm glad we get to live with him and he gets to be part of my family.
 
“I can’t imagine living any other life.”

Pamela Babcock is a writer, editor and communications consultant.

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