Airforce Veteran Billy Huckaby is a true Arkansan. He was born in Star City, grew up in Pine Bluff and attended college at UAMS where he received an Associate of Applied Science in surgical technology/first surgical assistant.
He joined the Air Force in 1979 where he put that degree to good use as a medical and surgical technologist and first assistant at Wilford Hall Medical Center where he worked in the operating room. “I stayed in that field for forty years, working at UAMS, Doctors, and both VA hospitals.
But Mr. Huckaby is no stranger to trouble. He has lost two wives to cancer and has a variety of health issues himself. “I had polio as a child, and while a miracle saved me from the worst of the health problems, I have what is called post-polio syndrome and that has a lot of health effects. I was also exposed to asbestos at Wilford Hall and again at the old VA and have lung lesions.” Arthritis, osteoporosis, and a hip replacement, as well as a sixty-five-pound weight loss from chemotherapy medication have also taken a huge toll on his health.
“I moved away after I retired and recently moved back to live with my sister and her husband. That did not work out and I was suddenly homeless.”
Mr. Huckaby lived at Harrison House, a home for those awaiting transplants, for three weeks. “They let me stay there while they had the space, but when a patient came, I had to leave. I was going to be living in my car when I went to the Day Treatment Center. I got into St. Francis House the next day.”
“I’m working on getting my health back, gaining weight, and eating healthy to get my strength back. And of course, getting housing. But most important, I’m working on my attitude. I used to be more open and friendly, but I’ve slowly changed. I’m more critical and it runs people away. We had two great in-services, one on becoming more likeable and one on gratitude. I’m trying to put what I learned into practice.”