Charlie Golson left for the emergency room last June.
On Monday, seven months later, he rolled back into the family home on Myrtle Island in Bluffton in his wheelchair.
“It’s been a journey,” said his wife, Nancy.
The chef and owner of one of Hilton Head Island’s most popular restaurants for the past 34 years — Charlie’s L’Etoile Verte, where Bill Clinton once dined when he was president — was stricken with a mysterious spinal infection.
No one knows how he got it, but the infection got in nerves up and down the spinal cord and into his muscle tissue.
The infection is gone, but nerve damage will make it a long, hard slog to walking again.
Golson was flown from Hilton Head to Charleston, where he underwent surgery and stayed a couple of months in intensive care at the Medical University of South Carolina, for a long time breathing and eating through tubes. Then it was on to the Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta to start serious rehabilitation. Last October, he got back to Bluffton, getting rehabilitation at NHC HealthCare.
“At least three of the girls at NHC wanted to come home and take care of him,” Nancy said, laughing. “We told them we don’t offer insurance.”
Golson enjoyed NHC. “I always had a fabulous breakfast,” he said.
At home on Tuesday, hound dogs were yelping at the May River and he was trying to figure out where everything is kept in a kitchen that was remodeled to make it roomier.
Grandsons William and Henry Palmer made a “Welcome Home Daddy Darly” banner, painting Charlie in a wheelchair.
Patsy Hodge, who works at Nancy’s Eggs ‘N’ Tricities shop in Old Town Bluffton, brought over a welcome-home lunch from Andes Rotisserie that was enough to feed a dozen people.
Charlie was working it into leftovers on Tuesday.
“I’m going to make up a little chicken pilau,” he said, but he didn’t like having to settle for brown basmati rice.
Nancy, whose birthday is Wednesday, said, “It’s a fabulous birthday present to get him home.”
After working to get the house, circa 1919, more suitable for Charlie, Nancy is now hacking through the mystical maze of Medicare coverage.
Her advice was for anyone with good health is to march down today to get long-term care insurance.
They’ve been looking for the best option for transportation, settling on an old Ford Crown Vic or Cadillac that will ride low and have lots of leg room.
Their children, Palmer Golson and Margaret Golson Pearman, are running the restaurant and have even done some remodeling. Paintings that lost their wall space at the May River home are now at the restaurant, including a still life of savory vegetables by the late Peggy Baggett, a president of the Hilton Head Art League.
“We’re going to take it one day at a time,” Charlie said.