Susan Welsh


Susan’s Journey

Susan Welsh:  My name is Susan Welsh. And my husband was injured in September second, two thousand six. 

Mike Welsh:  I was really fortunate during my traumatic brain injury recovery that I had Susan there to help me every stage.

Susan Welsh:  When I first spoke with Mike I could, I could tell after a few sentences with him that I could tell things weren’t quite right with him. But it was more of slow speaking. And Mike always spoke slow anyway but this just seemed to be more slow. But he still encourage me everything was good. He was heading back to his unit. I said so nothing’s wrong? You’re really okay? He’s like oh yeah, I’m fine. I guess a day, a day or two later he had called me again and told me they’re sending me to Landstuhl. I was likfe I thought you were going back to your unit? He said well they just want to do some checking. I was like okay, what’s wrong? Oh nothing, nothing. I’m fine, I’m fine. I was like well you can’t be fine if you’re going to Landstuhl. What’s going on? They just want to check me out just to make sure. I was like okay, okay, so you’re going to call me when you get to Germany right? Yeah, I’ll call you when I get to Germany. So he calls me when he gets to Germany and he says I’m coming home. I probably wasn’t informed until, that he had a traumatic brain injury, until the next evening. And we met with the traumatic brain injury doctors. And then I think it’s like oh something is really wrong with you. You’re not just home because they’re checking you out. You’re here because you’ve got some serious issues. The doctors were telling me and Mike were you know, this is what normally occurs when you’re having a brain injury. The smell is off. You know, he, he was, slurred speech. Quick to anger, very quick to anger.

Mike Welsh:  During my recovery there was a lot of periods where I was very edgy. 

Susan Welsh:  Yelling at people because someone flipped me off in a car. And I’m just like it’s okay. Don’t worry about it. I’m okay. He was like that a lot. A lot. And I didn’t know depth perception was off. But he was like grabbing on things in the car you know. He couldn’t make the judgment of I’m slowing down because I know I’m getting close and I need to slow down. But for him I was already on top of that car.

Mike Welsh:  For me it was hard to understand why things were so different. Cause’ nothing was the same any longer.

Susan Welsh:  Any of those behaviors that he had were to me very surprising. I didn’t expect to get back somebody totally different. And that’s what you have is a totally new human being. They’re not the same. They’re someone all new. It’s almost like you’re laying in bed with another husband and it’s like wow okay. All the things that he was going through, night terrors, I’m waking up because he’s waking up. And I didn’t know to expect that. I’m, I’m like oh my gosh what’s wrong with you? Are you okay? 

Mike Welsh:  When you have a TBI, things are so out of whack. You wonder if you’re going to return to what normal once was. 

Susan Welsh:  I felt very, very scared because you don’t know what to expect. Not just tomorrow but what about six months from now? What about a year from now? What about when we get old? 

Mike Welsh:  I realize if I was going to ever be of value again to the family unit I needed to do as much as I could to repair myself. 

Susan Welsh:  We went to see very often the traumatic brain injury specialist. There’s a few doctors we would go see. For his ear, because he lost sixty percent of his eardrum. So we’d go to the ear doctor. Then we’d go to the eye doctor. We would go see therapy. We would go to another building and he would get therapy there. 

Mike Welsh:  That means going to all the physical therapy, the recreation therapy, speech therapy once a week.

Susan Welsh:  Watching him go through tests your mouth, my mouth is to the floor. Because it’s like you’re having logical issues now.

Mike Welsh:  With my traumatic brain injury, it was difficult to make logical decisions. I couldn’t make decisions really.

Susan Welsh:  I feel like I needed to be with him at his appointments because I needed to understand what was happening.

Mike Welsh:  Susan was very critical with helping me navigate where I needed to go in the healthcare system. How to, I couldn’t take advantage of some of the resources cause’ I didn’t know what I should be doing. And then she was the person that filled those gaps and kept me on track with my recovery plan with the medical team.

Susan Welsh:  I don’t know if I ever had to be an advocate for him. Maybe sometimes I was or maybe it’s just cause’ he couldn’t get a thought across that I could say it quicker. You know, I did watch that struggle for him not being able to find the words. As days went by, months went by, I could get to that place where I just took him for what it was worth. Right at that moment, okay, we’re having a good day. This is great. Okay today we’re having a bad day. Okay this is just the way it is. What can I do to help you? And he would always tell me I’m fine. I was like okay, your fine, just let me know what I can do for you.

Mike Welsh:  After the traumatic brain injury, during my first part of recovery, my family was very helpful for me because they provided the hope that I needed for the journey.

Susan Welsh:  Mike and I both sat down with the boys to explain what had happened. And we were both very, in fact Mike was very up front with telling the boys of what doctors had said, what they expect to happen.

Mike Welsh:  I rely more on my wife then I ever did. And I rely on my two sons.

Susan Welsh:  When surgery came they would say is dad coming home? And it’s like I know he’s got to stay in the hospital and I’ll go get him tomorrow and see if I can bring him home. If not he’ll stay at the Malone House and I’ll come get you from school. Your job is to still be in school, do your homework, do your hockey, do your football, whatever it is, that’s your job. Your job is nothing else but that. And that’s how we kept it and it was very separate. I don’t know if it’s right or wrong. I don’t know how to tell anybody that’s right or wrong but you have to do whatever it is that’s good for your family. And so that’s what was good for our family was to keep the kids focused on what a child should be focused on. 

Mike Welsh:  My injury changed how I act and how I feel. The way I fit into my family now is different for me than it was before this injury.

Susan Welsh:  If the boys were scared, I wouldn’t know. I knew that they could get angry because he was so irrational.

Mike Welsh:  In a matter of a microsecond I could have a, just a outbreak, or rage where I could really get upset and, and verbally be short and short on patience. And you know, I hurt my family when I do that.

Susan Welsh:  But it’s like you know, give him a break. He’ll be okay, he’ll be okay. You know, we’ll just have to accept what’s happening to him right now because that’s what we have. But don’t get mad at him cause’ he can’t help it. Michael and Joseph were great. They were, they were always there. They just kind of took him for what he was at that moment. And that was good. 

Mike Welsh:  This traumatic brain injury, it changed me but it didn’t change my friends and it didn’t change my family. I still have those resources to reach out to and they’re there for me.

Susan Welsh:  Nobody would understand it unless you were talking to him on a daily basis like our close friends were that they could understand and they would say we understand. Let us know, whatever’s there. It’s like okay great, I need help today. And they were there. It is so important to have that. I don’t think I ever took time out for myself. It was just let’s, let’s do what we have to do. There was never a moment where I said I need a break and I’m going to go to the spa or whatever. No. It wasn’t me I guess, I don’t know. But it was, I never felt like I needed that break or I don’t know. I just didn’t do it. I think at sometimes I felt there probably wasn’t enough of me to go around or just being physically tired. And wondering, wondering about is this ever going to change? Maybe we’re in this forever. It’s really hard when someone else just says you’re going to have to face the fact he’s always going to be this way. And you want to be so defiant and say that’s not true. We have faith. God has our future. God will know what we need to do. And he will guide us. 

Mike Welsh:  The traumatic brain injury, when it changed my life, it changed how I feel about things. And I think what I have come to learn is I really feel numb. And everyday I have to look at myself and try to be strong enough to add something to my family, to find something that I could give back.

Susan Welsh:  Mike probably mostly is the same person now that I married I don’t know, twenty-three years ago. There’s still some differences. But they’re nothing like it was in September two thousand six. Nothing compared to that. He’s definitely a lot better. A lot more of what we use to have.

Mike Welsh:  There was times where I was trying so hard to be who I use to be that I would start taking on too many responsibilities, over committing myself. I started a graduate program for an MBA and not wanting to appear slow or weak, I signed up for way, way too many courses.

Susan Welsh:  For Mike being a leader and having to ask for help, I do think that’s an issue. A lot of it is just losing the independence that he could do something beforehand that he knows he has trouble with now. I still think he tries to gain that independence back, or that knowledge knowing that, satisfaction maybe, that I can do this and I can do it without you.

Mike Welsh:  And Susan was always there to tell me you can’t do it this way. After I did it the hard way, which was, didn’t work out well. She was there to help me figure out how to do it the way that would work for me.

Susan Welsh:  He has grown so much since the injury that he had but I still see other issues. Or there are other issues that are still there, they just quite haven’t gone away. Will they ever? I don’t know. But there’s always hope and that’s what we go with. It’s like we never give up. We just keep going. Today’s one day, tomorrow’s another. And let’s just go with that. So that’s how we look at it.

Mike Welsh:  I couldn’t do the financial planning for the family. It’s impossible. And Susan took over all the finances. And she pretty much managed them to begin with but that point she was very solo on it.

Susan Welsh:  He knows how to spend money, he knows when he should and shouldn’t spend money. He knows, he knows the price of things and he knows if it fits in our budget or if it doesn’t. There are times where he’s bought things, that’s part of traumatic brain injury, that are frivolous buys. And it’s like you bought that for?

Mike Welsh:  For instance one time I was out by myself, which is a pretty risky thing when you’re recovering from a TBI. And I had this impulse to get a new pickup truck. So I stopped at a car dealership and I started the process.

Susan Welsh:  It’s scary because he wants to buy a truck. And it’s like we just bought one. Why are you talking about buying another one?

Mike Welsh:  I didn’t know what I was getting in to. And I called Susan and I said I got this great deal on this truck. I’m getting ready to sign the papers.

Susan Welsh:  All I could say is like no we can’t afford that. No. He called back not even ten minutes later and he said you know I said on the phone I know I didn’t want the truck anymore but the manager wants to talk to you. And I said oh really? The manager? He goes yeah, you know the guy that we talked to before. And I was like you can put him on the line. I said you know I’m not talking about buying a new truck right? He said, well what are you going to talk about? I said we’re going to talk about you and how he needs to not bother you. And he said okay, never mind. Cause’ he knew what I was going to bring up. He didn’t want anyone to know that. That he has a problem with purchasing. 

Mike Welsh:  She got me back on track and my two sons at home heard Susan talk to me over the phone and they got involved. And it was a family event where they were trying to prevent me from making financial mistakes. 

Susan Welsh:  That’s the only part of finances that I worry about. That he has that ability to go off that desire so strong and purchase something.

Mike Welsh:  Sometimes I don’t know how to make a decision. And I’ll look over at them and they’ll be whispering what I’m supposed to do. They’ll give me the nod. Or they’ll give me the warning not to do something. And these, these are small things but they have major impacts with the family. I don’t’ know how I would make it through this type of injury without having my wife and my family support. They play a role everyday in helping me recover.

Susan Welsh:  When we got married, I did not realize what for better for worse really meant. It wasn’t until we went through a traumatic brain injury experience. 

Mike Welsh:  And recovery doesn’t happen in days or weeks or months. I’m learning right now that the recovery from a traumatic brain injury is, it’s a long journey.

Susan Welsh:  The worst moments since Mike’s gotten back is probably really just thinking about the future. Is not, not knowing what he will be like. I really get concerned about his injuries. Not knowing if they’ll get worse or they will still get better.

Mike Welsh:  Susan and I got married back in nineteen eighty-seven, twenty some years ago and I think when we were standing in the church and we made our promises to each other, for better or for worse, I don’t think any of us ever thought that something would happen to the other partner. Cause’ your partners your team for life and you make a commitment. 

Susan Welsh:  I know that he’s a stubborn person. I know that I am. And I partially think that’s what keeps us together is because we are stubborn people and we do not give up. 

Mike Welsh:  She’s never blinked; she’s stood by me. She’s going to be with me till the end. And she’s very strong. And I’m just very fortunate to have such a strong wife. And when you look at her, she’s a little, tiny thing. And it’s, she looks small but inside she’s like a giant.

Susan Welsh:  The best moment for Mike and I? Probably just being together everyday. Take it for what it’s worth everyday is a gift. I’m not sure what I’d do without him. He’s a big part of my life and our kid’s life and it’s hard. So I’m very grateful everyday that he is, he’s with us. And that we have all the time that we have together. 

Mike Welsh:  You know, a bad thing happened to me but I had a good thing happen with my family.