ERWIN — While he’s not quite ready to return to work, Unicoi County Sheriff Kent Harris is back home following his release earlier last week from the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, where he was receiving treatment for a brain injury suffered when he fell from the roof of the Unicoi County Jail last year.
Harris said his last day of therapy at Shepherd Pathways, an outpatient rehabilitation program associated with the Shepherd Center, was Tuesday. Although he hasn’t officially been working, Harris said he has had a hand in operations at the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department.
“Because of doctors’ orders, because my therapy’s still ongoing, I’m not working but I’m still involved,” Harris said.
Harris fell more than 16 feet from the jail’s roof on Aug. 18 while helping to repair a leak. As a result of the fall, Harris suffered, among other injuries, a brain injury. After receiving treatment at Johnson City Medical Center and Unicoi County Memorial Hospital, Harris was admitted to the Shepherd Center, which is a facility specializing in the treatment of brain injury patients.
Although Harris said he feels “pretty good” at the moment, he still has more therapy to complete. The sheriff said because of the head injury, his neurologist in Atlanta will still act as his primary doctor, and he will be traveling there one day each week throughout July for checkups and treatment.
Starting later this week, Harris also will begin traveling to Asheville, N.C., twice weekly for therapy at CarePartners, a facility specializing in physical, speech and occupational therapies. He said there is no time frame as to how long he will receive treatment there.
“I’m hoping when I get over there they’ll say ‘You’re fine’ and make it a quick thing,” he said.
While not in therapy, Harris will be in Unicoi County. He also said his patient care provider, who has been with the sheriff since December, will remain with him for the time being as he is still a risk to fall due to inner ear problems. Also, Harris cannot yet drive.
Harris was complimentary of how the UCSD was ran in his absence.
“I don’t know how they could have done any better of a job,” he said.
He also praised the work of the Shepherd Center, saying he would “recommend the facility to anybody” and plans to try to raise money for the facility in the future as many of its services, such as allowing family members of patients to stay on the center’s campus free of charge, are done through donations.
“I’ve been blessed with some of the best medical care that anybody could have,” Harris said. “They’ve been really good to me.”