Frank Bryant feels guided to help friend, co-worker who suffers a major stroke

Published 1:18 pm Saturday, March 9, 2013


COURTLAND—A Courtland man credits providence for directing him to help two close friends who are each enduring major health issues.

Frank Bryant said he was visiting Hugh and Robin Pittman in the Intensive Care Unit at Obici Hospital in Suffolk on Jan. 28. This was three days after Hugh suffered a massive stroke at his own home in Courtland.

“All of a sudden as Robin was talking, her voice faded away,” said Bryant who was standing beside her. “Another voice encapsulated me and told me to help them. It was plain as could be and could only be from above.”

In addition to living within six miles of each other, Bryant 63, and Hugh Pittman, 57, each work at the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Suffolk. Bryant, a former pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is a Peanut Variety and Quality Evaluation program technician. Before his attack, Hugh was a lab and research specialist.

“Hugh is a very local and valued employee. We’re missing him from a professional viewpoint as well as personally,” said Dr. Allen Harper, director. “We’re all close to him and concerned about his prognosis. We want to see a good outcome.”

Harper further praised the man for his versatility for helping wherever needed.

The day of the stroke was when the region was hit with a snowstorm, remembered Robin, 43. About 7:30 p.m., Hugh told her that he was going to lie down. After finishing her sewing around 8:20 p.m., she went into the bedroom and found him half-on, half-off the bed.

“At first I thought he was being funny, because he’s always been such a jokester,” said Robin, who quickly saw otherwise. His face was distorted and the right side of his body was limp. While trying to help him up, he was struggling and slipped out of her arms, face first onto the hardwood floor.

Getting help was complicated by a cellphone that wouldn’t work, so she went across the street to call for help. The rescue vehicle didn’t show up until 45 minutes later because of the weather, which also prevented a flight to a Norfolk hospital. Southampton Memorial Hospital was unable to take any more patients, she said, so they all went to Obici Hospital. By the time he was treated, Pittman was past the window for special medical treatment to counteract much of the damage.

A scan showed that Hugh did have a stroke, which led to a swelling of the brain and could have also seriously affected his breathing.

Calling his children to the scene, they consulted about what to do.

“We made a decision to keep him going. I wasn’t ready to let him go,” Robin said. The couple’s first wedding anniversary was Feb. 11.

Less than a week after the stroke the swelling went down and a tube was used to feed Hugh Pittman.

She resisted any pressure to admit him into any kind of a nursing home.

“I knew he would give up and die there. I married him for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health,” said Robin Pittman. “And I’m going to look after him until I don’t have any more breath in my body.”

Thankfully, Hugh Pittman had made enough progress with various therapies and is getting more extensive treatment at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

“He has more of an appetite and is using a walker, but still needs much help. He can dress himself and put on socks and shoes. He progresses every day,” she said.

All the care that Robin Pittman is giving is complicated by her own diagnosis of fibromyalgia, a chronic pain in the muscles. The disease has forced her to resign as a nurse from a convalescent center in Windsor.

Even with insurance and savings, the couple is in need of help to pay bills. That’s where their friend Frank has stepped in. Robin remembers his first visit at the hospital.

“When Frank came to see Hugh, he said, ‘I need to tell you something. A higher power was talking to me and said that you all needed my help.’ I just sat there and cried,” said she.

The couple consented to Bryant’s offer. To help the Pittmans with bills, he has made arrangements for donations.

“I am respectfully and graciously requesting the public to give in any way you can. Every penny will help. Whatever funds we collect will end up going to the Bronco Federal Credit Union in Franklin. Your prayers and gifts will be greatly appreciated,” Bryant said.

Cards and checks may be sent to Hugh and Robin Pittman, 14540 Wakefield Road, Courtland, Va. 23837. They, in turn, will put the money into an account at Bronco.

Donations cannot be sent directly to the bank, said member service representative Billy Stephenson, who added that legal issues prevent the bank from being caretakers. He knows the couple, though, because he was raised in the area where Hugh was raised.