Episode 154: Mike Wolo, Traumatic Brain Injury Survivor
On this episode, Karen speaks with Mike Wolo; approximately twenty years ago, in the fall of 2003, Mike was crushed by 10,000 pounds of granite stone and stopped breathing for six minutes. Mike suffered a traumatic brain injury and was told by physicians that he would never be the same again, and to say goodbye to who he was prior to the accident. Mike refused this outcome and defied all odds. This is Mike’s story.
Time does not heal all wounds, the fight to overcome does. Twenty years have passed since an accident dealt Mike Wolo with a two percent chance of survival. His story of resilience, determination and courage is finally being told.
Growing up near Cape Cod, Massachusetts in a house full of brothers meant the great outdoors provided the ultimate backdrop for all sports plus camping and biking. As time went on, new adventures included motorcycle, ATV and snowmobile trips through Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire. Dad was a union pipe fitter; mom in-charge of making sure five boys learned life lessons of respect and dignity. Life was an adventure, family the steady rock. Then life changed. Today he is known as Titanium Mike because of the 110 titanium screws and 20 plates that holds his skull in place.
On a postcard New England Autumn morning Mike was helping a friend who owned a granite importing business move granite slabs when a bundle shifted, pinning him by the temples of his head. 10,000 pounds of granite left him dangling in the air, his head crushed to less than three inches wide. The heroics of many and a MedFlight trip to Boston saved his life. Blunt neck and head trauma left him to learn to talk and walk again. Every step-of-the-way was accompanied by a new arsenal of anxiety, depression, and agoraphobia - which continue to make appearances two decades later.
Life has a way of making the impossible possible. The cards dealt have not prevented him from meeting the love of his life (actually, she grew-up a couple of houses down the street), being the dad to two energetic boys, and having a career in telecommunications. Eyebrows always rise when Mike mentions his former semi-professional football playing days. A friend invited him to attend practices of a local team as-a-way-to-get back into shape. This 5’7’’, 174-pound accident survivor impressed during drills and earned an invite by the coach to join the team. Mike had a regret quitting football his senior year of high school when a new coach claimed he was not big enough to play. A couple of decades later Mike was back on the field, this time as a starting defensive tackle on a semi-pro team. He played two full seasons and retired in his third season, his last game which happened to be his 43rd birthday. The accident gave way to an accomplishment he never dreamed possible.
If a goal in life is to limit regrets, he has one more to tackle. It has been twenty years since Mike’s world was turned upside down, and Titanium Mike is just starting to tell his story. The regret of taking so long to speak to others about his message of hope and determination is no more. Today he looks to inspire, to share life’s journey, and to remind others who suffer unwanted fates that there is much worth fighting for – even in the darkest moments. He has been a guest on several Podcasts and featured in several online news media outlets that have reached many around the world. His journey to share his story is just commencing. He welcomes all and is humbled by the messages of support received.