VALDOSTA — Chiropractic means done by hand, derived from the words “chiro” meaning hand and “praxis” to do. Thus, essentially it is a profession that relies on a person’s ability to heal through touch. That is what chiropractor Dr. Brian Hickox does. He depends on his ability to heal through touch despite his inability to see.
Hickox was born in 1976 in Radford, Va., with congenital toxoplasmosis, a group of symptoms that occur when an unborn baby is infected with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii.
“You know when a woman gets pregnant and they tell her not to change the litter box?” Hickox prompted. “That’s what happened to me.”
Babies born with the disease may exhibit symptoms such as damage to the eyes, ears, nervous system, skin and much more. After Hickox’s 14-year-old biological mother gave birth to him, it wasn’t immediately known that he was legally blind. It was not discovered until his parents, John and Beverly Hickox, adopted him at just 8 days old.
At about the age of 2, when Hickox’s family moved to Tifton, doctors discovered that Brian could not follow a finger in a standard eye procedure.
“I only had peripheral vision,” said Hickox. “Mom said I was always looking where I had been instead of where I was going.”
He was sent to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., where he stayed for about a week.
In the late 1970s, the CAT scan was emerging, and such a scan alerted doctors to a series of calcium deposits on Hickox’s brain.
“They looked like bullet holes,” said Hickox.
The doctors thought that he would never walk, talk or sit up as congenital toxoplasmosis can exhibit various symptoms.
“They told my mom and dad to put me in an institution,” said Hickox.
That was not something Hickox’s parents were willing to do.
“They loved me and they were not going to give up on me,” said Hickox.
The confidence and drive exhibited by Hickox’s parents would continue throughout his entire life. Though he was not completely blind, life was still a challenge growing up. He could only see about an arm’s length in front of him and it wasn’t very clear. He could make out color and shapes somewhat and could read large print if he was very close.
“As a kid I could ride a bike around the block,” said Hickox. “I could see a street or curb just as I was approaching it and I could make out the difference between pavement and grass.”
Hickox could even watch television and play video games so long as he sat really close to the set. Though he couldn’t make out everything that was going on, he could get the gist of it.
“I was basically a normal kid,” said Hickox.
In 1980, Hickox’s family moved to Valdosta. In 1994, he graduated from Valdosta High School, where his mother was an English teacher. In 1995, Hickox went off to college at Middle Georgia College in Cochran. There, events occurred that changed his life forever and created an even bigger challenge than he could have possibly imagined.
Hickox was just in his first year when he was walking home off campus from class one night. All of a sudden, he was robbed at gunpoint.
“He hit me in the head with a pistol three times,” said Hickox.
What little vision Hickox had gradually disappeared until he was completely blind.
“I had been preparing myself,” said Hickox. “I knew it was going to happen eventually.”
As a result of this traumatic incident, he also developed post-traumatic stress disorder and trigeminal neuralgia, which gave him chronic migraines. Hickox had to leave college and had to have two surgeries in 1997 to correct the trigeminal neuralgia.
“It’s healed for the most part but it still bothers me sometimes,” he said.
While Hickox was used to challenges, there is a big difference between little vision and no vision. For example, he had to learn Braille because he was never taught as a child since he could read large print. However, Hickox did not let this hinder his ambitions.
Hickox knew he wanted to be a chiropractor since he was a junior in high school. His father’s cousin, Ferrell Pitman, was a chiropractor whom he visited in Florida a few days per week for a pinched nerve in his back. Pitman felt that being a chiropractor would be a perfect profession for Hickox. Pitman took him to the Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa, where Hickox attended school.
While Hickox was there, he met Dwayne Hudspeth, a blind student about to graduate.
“I thought that if he could do this, so could I,” said Hickox. “He was a big inspiration to me.”
After his short stint at Middle Georgia, Hickox attended Valdosta State University, then Palmer College, Georgia Military College and then, finally, in 2003, Sherman College of Chiropractic in South Carolina.
For most Sherman students, the program was just under three and a half years. Due to Hickox’s disability, it took him seven years.
“I feel like I had a seven-year prison sentence,” joked Hickox.
Sherman was challenging for Hickox, as most of the classes were visual. Instead of writing notes and reading material like other students, he had to have classmates and tutors record his notes for him on a cassette tape. This made studying a long and tedious process as he was unable to “skim” notes like most college students do.
Hickox also couldn’t take as many classes as other students because it took him longer to study and do classwork. While most of his classmates were taking up to eight classes a day, he took only three to four.
Hickox finally graduated Sherman in 2010. He feels he owes a lot of his accomplishments to the dedication of his parents, and the inspiration of his friend Hudspeth and local doctors, Dr. Deane Mink and Dr. L.D. Pridgen.
“They were all rooting me on,” said Hickox. “I’m very fortunate.”
Hickox proudly opened the doors to his practice, Hickox Chiropractic & Wellness, on Monday, May 7. Though he’s taking a risk by going into business by himself, he feels it was the best way considering his disability. He arranged his office to certain specifications, something that could have been difficult had he partnered with someone else.
“I got it down to a science pretty much,” said Hickox.
Hickox Chiropractic & Wellness is accepting patients. He is located at 1507 Northside Drive at the corner of Forrest Street. Hours are 8 a.m. to noon and then 2-6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m.-noon Saturdays. More information: Call (229) 293-1333.
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