You don’t realize the importance of family, friends and your community until you need them. Tim and Beth Welch of Yale fully understand how vital these components are after an accident on July 5, 2018, changed their lives forever.
Tim was working alone in Perry, helping his son build a house. Somehow he slipped and fell to the ground from the second story out of a cut out for patio doors. They estimate he fell ten-to-12 feet, landing on his right side.
About an hour later, a plumber arrived to work at the property and discovered Tim on the ground, injured and unconscious. He called 911 for help and soon, Tim was transferred by air ambulance to Mercy Medical Center. The doctors found 17 broken ribs, a punctured lung and other injuries. They assured the family he would regain consciousness soon.
But he didn’t. After about a day in the hospital, an MRI revealed Tim had suffered a traumatic brain injury known as brain shear. Diffuse axonal injury (DAI) is a shearing and stretching of the nerve cells at the cellular level. It occurs when the brain quickly moves back and forth inside the skull, tearing and damaging the nerve axons.
Family members gathered to support Beth. Tim’s family came from all over the nation. There were some tense days and nights but eventually, Tim’s body began to heal. He survived pneumonia and other complications but still, he remained unconscious.
After 30 days, Beth chose to move Tim to On With Life in Ankeny. After about two weeks at the facility, Tim began to show signs of recognition. It started with blinking his eyes, twitching to the sound of a loud noise, etc. All the while, Tim was going through intense days of therapy, spending four-to-six hours five days a week trying to make his body and mind react.
Eventually Tim roused from the coma and began to make progress. He had to learn everything all over again: how to talk, eat and walk. Basic skills that he developed as a child were now unknown. It was a difficult and stressful time for everyone.
“He was never left alone,” explained Beth. “The family rotated so someone was always there with him.” She placed a mattress in the back of her van and used that as a get-away when she needed a short break.
Tim’s brother, Rick from Texas, and others tackled remodeling the Welch home to make it handicapped accessible as they looked ahead to Tim’s dismissal from On With Life. The bathroom, laundry room and kitchen were remodeled to make things easier for them.
“They got busy and it was great,” added Beth. “I was living in Ankeny with him. Basically, I lived out of the van.”
The intense therapy continued. At one point, Tim had enough and became depressed. He pulled his tubes and told them to let him die. But family and friends wouldn’t do that. It was his speech therapist at On With Life who helped him understand that he had too much to live for.
“She really helped me. She sat down and talked with me,” agreed Tim. “She was great!”
Day after day of therapy continued until Tim progressed to a point where the medical personnel released him to return to their Yale home. November 29 was a great day for them but yet, very difficult. “That was hard, adjusting to the changes,” admitted Beth. “We had help in the hospital and facility but now it was just us.
“Physical therapy came to the house. They really got the ball rolling, getting him to be more mobile,” Beth added. “That really helped.” Their daughter, Shelby Welch is a CNA and has moved home to assist in Tim’s care.
Tim was making good progress, utilizing the therapy services at the Guthrie County Hospital in Guthrie Center. Three times a week he takes part in physical, occupational and speech therapy. He had begun walking a full trek around the track.
But then another complication popped up. Due to the brain injury, Tim has no feeling on the right side of his body. He became ill and Beth, as well as the other health care workers, assumed it was the flu. It was something more serious: a gallbladder attack.
In the midst of the February blizzard, Tim was so sick that Beth called the Panora Ambulance. “I just felt so bad to call them out in that awful weather but they were just great,” continued Beth. “It was bizarre. He didn’t feel any pain. It was tricky trying to figure out what was wrong.”
Once the gallbladder diagnosis was made, Tim went back to Mercy Medical Center for surgery and recuperation. After a week, he was dismissed but he had lost 20 pounds. There was a big set-back in his therapy.
“It was back to square one again but we’re on the mend,” Beth added. Tim is continuing therapy at GCH three days a week and in late March began pool therapy at Timber Creek Therapies.
Through it all, Beth has enjoyed the support of family, friends and community. “First, above all else, by the grace of God and through him, is why we are here again today,” she praised.
“Second to the friends and family: the support has been tremendous. It’s been overwhelming. The generosity of neighbors, everything has been taken care of. They’ve mowed our lawn, scooped the snow, cleaned my shop and so much more.” (Beth owns and operates All The Trimmings on the Main Street of Yale.)
“Greg and Susan Kirtley have taken care of us 100 percent and so have so many other people. It’s overwhelming!”
“The cards that people sent to us. The gift and gas cards. The food brought to the house,” continued Beth. “It’s been very much appreciated. We are blessed!”
Guthrie County Public Health Nursing Service has assisted the Welch family with a nurse coming to the house once a week. A CNA comes twice a week to provide additional care.
“They too are just wonderful,” Beth praised. “They’re great!”
Beth is now working part time, fitting appointments in between Tim’s therapy sessions. She admitted, she’s still trying to balance his care and her work. “The more he progresses, the easier it is getting,” noted Beth. “At first I couldn’t work. His sister, Lori Schmidt of Missouri comes once a month for a week to help. That’s great!” They also use a camera so that Tim and Beth can communicate when she is working just a couple blocks away.
Tim doesn’t talk a lot but he still has his sense of humor. He was proud to show off the remodeling of the house his family completed. He was looking forward to the Jamaica Lions breakfast on March 31.
“The whole family will be there. Everybody. All the kids, my family,” exclaimed Tim. He’s anxious to see members of the community too but because he tires easily, Beth isn’t sure how long they would be able to stay.
“Your whole world changes. I didn’t know the impact of my community until this happened. I couldn’t have done any of this without them,” stressed Beth. “When you look at where we’ve been and where we are now, it’s amazing.
“Our small community has meant everything to us,” concluded Beth. “They’ve helped us out of this tragedy and we’ll keep forging ahead.”
The Jamaica Lions Club is collecting donations for the Welch family to assist with Tim’s medical expenses. To contribute, please mail checks to Jamaica Lions Club, P.O. Box 9, Jamaica, IA 50128