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Brenda and Wayne Sturkie

Brenda and Wayne Sturkie

Cope resident Wayne Sturkie was what one might call a prototypical man's man.

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A star athlete at Edisto High School, an avid hunter and fisherman, row crop and livestock farmer, Sturkie lived life to the fullest. 

"He broke all kinds of records," says Brenda, Sturkie's wife. "Basketball was his favorite."

Wayne, 68, and Brenda's life would forever change on Holy Thursday night -- April 13, 2017.

The couple were at Lexington Medical Center where Brenda was admitted with pneumonia.

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Wayne, always at her side, was spending nights at the hospital.

It was evening and Brenda was just about to be released from the hospital.

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"I heard him making a noise and I raised up and asked him if he was cold or hot and he never answered me," Brenda said. "After a while he cut the light on and he was disorientated. Something was wrong and he did not know where he was."

"I was calling him and talking to him but he fell on the floor," Brenda said.

She said immediately the hospital staff responded and treated him but the massive stroke had already taken its toll.

"They told me he was fine," Brenda recalled. "I thought, 'Okay, he will walk into my room. But when I went to see him, his face was drawn and he could not speak. I was devastated."

Two years later, Wayne still cannot walk or speak.

Brenda, who is a retired Orangeburg County treasurer's office employee, is the sole caretaker of her husband as the couple's children do not live in the Orangeburg area.

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She does have a sitter that relieves her on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for a few hours.

"I just don't have the energy," she said. "I never thought I would retire and be a caregiver, but that is what the Lord had in store."

A typical day the couple enjoy meals and then they watch Gunsmoke and Andy Griffith.

"He likes his game shows but he sleeps a lot lately," she said.

Getting him in and out of his wheelchair and in and out of their vehicle for times when they have doctor appointments has been a challenge. He has been in physical therapy and occupational therapy, but remains confined to a wheelchair.

The difficult situation has caught the heart of St. Matthews resident DeeDee Prickett. Prickett has begun a fundraising effort on Facebook in order to raise monies for a handicap-accessible van.

"I grew up with them and I have known them since I was small wee one," Prickett said. "I grew up in Cope and they were some of our neighbors."

"This is extremely difficult for her to continue and they are in desperate need of a handicapped van," she said. "She is wearing herself out getting him in and out of the van just for doctor appointments."

Since the fundraiser's inception a month ago on Facebook, about $5,200 has been raised. However, Prickett says Facebook has a limit on fundraising efforts and the cutoff date for raising funds on the social media platform was June 7.

A fund -- Grandsouth Bank of Orangeburg-Sturkie Van Fund -- has also begun.

Two Mile Baptist Church in Cope has also had a number of fundraisers for the Sturkies. The couple are members of the church.

Prickett estimates a pre-owned low-mileage, handicap-equipped van will cost between $22,000 and $28,000.

"We want something dependable and something affordable," she said.

Brenda praises the church family of Two Mile Baptist as well as both Prickett and her mother, Sandra Hughes, for their support. Cards and meals and support have been the norm since the ordeal.

"Our church family has been wonderful," she said. "We could not ask for better people. They have been so so good."

Those wanting to help the Sturkies are asked to contact GrandSouth Bank of Orangeburg at 803-596-0000 about the Sturkie Van Fund. Individuals can also contact Prickett at 803-707-8378 or Sandra Hughes at 803-378-0125.

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Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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Staff Writer

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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