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 provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, multiple amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. Ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top 10 hospitals for rehabilitation and the best in the Southeast, Shepherd Center treats more than 850 inpatients and 7,600 outpatients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.