Former Patient with a Brain Injury Now Helps People with Mental Illness
Mulkey McMichael, 64, of Buena Vista, Ga., retired in 2012 as director of public relations and communications for Sumter County Schools. His retirement lasted all of one day before he was enticed into taking a public relations position with Perry Wellness Center, a nonprofit focused on the wellbeing of individuals with mental illness and addictive disorders.
“There are a lot of parallels between Perry Wellness Center and Shepherd Center,” Mulkey says. “It’s what life is all about – helping people. We don’t always realize what people are going through. I still think about how compassionate and understanding everyone at Shepherd was with me.”
Mulkey arrived at Shepherd Center in 1995 with an acquired brain injury from an all-terrain vehicle accident on his farm. “I tell everyone, ‘By the grace of God and the good doctors at Shepherd, I’m here,’” Mulkey says.
He credits occupational therapy exercises as one of the keys in his recovery. “I didn’t understand the value of it at first,” Mulkey says. Routine chores like cleaning out a refrigerator, planning a party, or arranging a closet seemed unnecessary to him I told them, ‘I don’t do that kind of stuff in my own home!’ But I did it because they were persistent, and they knew what they were doing.”
Today, he is as active as ever. Mulkey rides about 20 miles a week on his bicycle and works out daily. A converted vegetarian and a self-taught craftsman, he spends part of each day in his woodshop, creating wine corks and other handmade items on his lathe.
Mulkey is also thinking about writing a new book. Back in 1997, he wrote “Led by the Shepherd’s Staff” about his time at Shepherd Center, donating the profits in honor of co-founder Alana Shepherd.
In everything, Mulkey still abides by a rule he learned at Shepherd Center: “You cannot rush life when you have a brain injury. “You have to be patient,” he says. “And I have to remind myself of that often because nobody is more impatient than me!”
For more information on Shepherd Center's Acquired Brain Injury Program, click here.
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 935 inpatients, 541 day program patients and more than 7,300 outpatients each year.