‘God had another plan’

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 22, 2009

Arnetta Pickett said one of her greatest joys in life has been raising her four sons.

But she had no idea she’d still be doing it this late in her life.

When Pickett’s youngest, Zachary Hunt, was 18 he was making plans to start classes on scholarship at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Natchez and begin his life.

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But as Pickett puts it, “God had another plan.”

Shortly after Hunt’s 2005 Franklin County High School graduation, he was in a car accident that left him in a vegetative state.

Hunt was a passenger in a vehicle when it was struck by another car.

Pickett said Hunt took the brunt of the impact.

“The doctors gave him three days to live,” Pickett said.

Hunt passed the three-day marker, but he was in various intensive care units for months.

He was in the hospital for three months before he was able to breathe on his own.

His brain was damaged, his pelvis was broken in three places, his leg was broken and his lung and liver were also damaged.

“He had severe brain damage,” she said. “And no one knew what was going to happen to him.”

But Pickett knew she would be the one to take care of him no matter what.

“About two weeks after the accident a woman from social services came to tell me that I should consider putting Zack in a nursing home. She told me he could be a vegetable,” Pickett said. “But he was too young, I told her ‘This is something I have to do on my own.’”

And since Zack was able to return home — approximately 6 months after his accident —Pickett has been taking care of her son on her own.

“He was the baby, he was the last one,” Pickett said. “I thought when he left I’d be done.”

But Pickett isn’t close to done.

“I never thought I’d be changing diapers and teaching him how to write again,” she said.

But when Pickett talks about the non-stop effort it takes to care for her son — she smiles the entire time.

While she said the work has been difficult, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’m his mother.”

But Pickett’s work doesn’t end at home.

She also a certified nursing assistant at a local nursing home.

She works the night shift so she can be home with her son in the day. Other family members sit with him at night.

When Hunt was first sent home from the hospital he wasn’t able to speak or communicate except for blinks and moans.

Pickett slept on a makeshift bed on the floor next to her son for more than a year.

“Then just like that he started talking one day,” she said.

Pickett calls it a miracle.

“He said ‘Mama don’t you want to go to your own bed,’” she said. “And he hasn’t stopped talking since.”

But his life hasn’t returned to normal.

Hunt, now 22, relies on his mother for everything.

While he isn’t paralyzed, his brain was so badly injured in the accident that it just can’t communicate with his legs and feet enough to get him moving, Pickett said.

Hunt has only limited movement in his legs, while his arms function normally.

“I just watch TV,” he said. “That’s what I do.”

While Hunt can carry on a conversation, it’s not like talking to a 22-year-old.

He speaks just a little more slowly and a little more deliberately.

Pickett attributes that to his brain damage.

Pickett said while he’s retained most of his long-term memories her son has a difficult time remembering things in the short-term.

He can still recall the accident, but he’s not always sure what day it is.

While the details aren’t clear, Hunt said he believed the vehicle that crashed into the car he was riding in was racing.

Hunt has spent most of the last three years tucked away in the bedroom of his rural Roxie home.

Pickett said it’s been almost a year since her son has left the house; his last trip was to a family reunion in New Orleans.

And the young man who was once planning to attend college and start a career, now has much more simple desires.

“I don’t want to hurt,” he said from his bed. “Today I feel better, and I only hurt a little.”

While Pickett said her son doesn’t have lingering injures, aside from limited leg use, he has continuous pain from his former injuries.

His other desire is one he’s had since high school.

He wants to play football.

Hunt can still recall a high school game his mother came to watch.

“She was worried I was going to get hurt,” he said laughing. “But I could hit everybody else harder than they could hit me.”

And for a young man whose life was drastically changed — Hunt has an amazingly optimistic outlook.

“He has brought me a long way,” Hunt said about God’s work in his life.

Hunt has confidence God’s not done working in his life yet.

God spoke to him in a dream, Hunt said.

“He told me that I would be able to walk,” he said. “And he told me to tell my Mama to be patient.”

And Hunt has plans for his life once he’s up and about.

He wants to return to his high school job at a near by grocery store.

“I liked it there.”