Augusta delegation chairman reveals extent of illness; says he’s returning to legislature

State Rep. Henry “Wayne” Howard, D-Augusta, said he will return to the capitol in a wheelchair after having portions of both legs amputated due to complications from peripheral artery disease.

 

“It’s been a long journey,” said Howard, who went public with his condition Sunday. “This is a way for me to let the public know that I’m ready to go back to work.”

Howard, 62, is in the second year of his sixth term representing the 124th District and his sixth year as chairman of the seven-member Augusta legislative delegation. He has held the House seat since winning it in 2006 from his stepmother, Rep. Earnestine Howard, who replaced her husband, Rep. Henry Howard, after he died in 2005.

Wayne Howard’s colleagues on the delegation said they afforded his family privacy during his illness but now welcome him back into service.

“He’s a very good friend of mine and a good colleague and I’m glad he’s coming back to work,” said Senate Minority Whip Harold Jones, D-Augusta.

“I’m excited to hear he was doing so well and that he’s looking forward to coming back,” said state Rep. Brian Prince, D-Augusta. “Having something to look forward to will help his recovery, as well.”

Rep. Sheila Clark Nelson, D-Augusta, said she’d offered moral and legislative support.

“It didn’t seem like it had been six months,” she said. “I told him to take it one day at a time and don’t rush it.” .

Howard said he became ill in March and wound up spending five weeks in Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. After that he was cared for at the Joseph M. Still Wound Care Center at Doctors Hospital until his release Aug. 15.

Howard has battled kidney failure for two years and will soon get his name back on the list for a donation, he said. His diabetes isn’t being treated with medication and he said doctors amputated his legs due to advanced peripheral artery disease, a narrowing of the arteries that prevents adequate blood flow to the limbs.

“It was nothing I knew was coming,” he said. “I wanted to thank the public for allowing me the privacy that I needed to get through this.”

Howard said he’s been outfitted with a power wheelchair and is working on getting a vehicle he can drive. He said he’s at “80 percent” but will be ready to resume work when the General Assembly convenes in January, and to run for re-election in the May Democratic primary.

“By January, I should be 100 percent,” he said.

The capitol is fully accessible to wheelchairs, but his new life in a chair has been a learning experience, Howard said.

“It makes you aware of some of the things that disabled folk go through once you go through it yourself,” he said. “Walk a mile in my shoes, you understand that.”

Howard said the experience has inspired him to improve services for people with disabilities, and senior citizens.

“You end up thinking about what kind of legislation you can do to help them with some of the problems they are faced with, what we may be faced with,” he said.

Howard was ready to talk issues Monday and said he will continue to serve until he can no longer do so.

“The clock is still ticking, so we’re going to continue to work until it stops,” he said.

Reach Susan McCord at (706) 823-3215 or susan.mccord@augustachronicle.com.

 

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