Before Michael Shelby’s help, Christine Classick missed the “old” husband she had before the accident. Her husband, 63-year-old Nick Classick, was traveling for business when he had a heart attack in an airport. He fell, hit his head and …
Before Michael Shelby’s help, Christine Classick missed the “old” husband she had before the accident. Her husband, 63-year-old Nick Classick, was traveling for business when he had a heart attack in an airport. He fell, hit his head and sustained a traumatic brain injury — and survived a coma.
About eight years later in April 2016, Shelby, a caregiver who works with Always Best Care Senior Services, came into Classick’s life. Classick, who uses a motorized wheelchair, had to relearn how to talk after his injury and still has some difficulties.
“When I first started with Nick, his wife expressed to me that sometimes, she misses the old Nick,” Shelby said. “She misses that when she’d get into bed at night, he’d reach over and say ‘good night’ and ‘I love you.’
“So one day, I went down to Michaels and got this faux rose. And I put this on her pillow and told Nick when she gets in bed and moves the rose, that’s your cue to tell her good night’ and ‘I love you.’ It’s a very subtle yet intimate way to recapture that” routine, Shelby said.
That attention to detail and going the extra mile is what earned Shelby a Caregiver of the Year award for the southwest United States region from Always Best Care. The company has franchises around the U.S. and Canada that offer companionship, help around the house and assistance with things like eating and grooming for seniors.
“It’s a blessing that the feedback I get from families and friends of clients (says) I’ve found my calling,” Shelby said
In his mid-40s, Shelby’s resume included stocking groceries, landscaping, working for Home Depot and managing retail at places like King Soopers and Sam’s Club. A man who “punched the clock for a paycheck” for many years, he said, his life took a turn five years ago when he started on the path to becoming a caregiver.
“At the risk of sounding cliché, it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done to earn a living,” said Shelby, a 51-year-old Centennial resident. “It’s so rewarding to be such an integral part of someone else’s life, and they’re so grateful for the assistance you provide. And that in itself is what makes it worth it to me.”
Shelby, who once did jobs as taxing as installing irrigation, decided to go to Emily Griffith Technical College in Denver after his friend got him interested — he said he was looking to do something more “fruitful and beneficial” with his life.
Shelby became a certified nursing assistant in 2012 and got involved in home health care about a year later, he said.
Now, he works with Always Best Care and sees some of his clients through that company.
Shelby said that “in one way or another,” he’s been a caretaker for quite some time — he lost his wife Amber to a rare form of cancer in 1995.
“It was very quick and very sudden,” Shelby said. “I don’t even remember the clinical term for it. I just remember being told it was maybe one in 100,000 (who develop it).”
Shelby took care of her for four months before she died, when their son, who still lives with Shelby today, was only 2. Today, Shelby takes care of people like Classick, a Parker resident.
Classick was “traveling for business, going through San Francisco International (Airport), and had a heart attack,” said Shelby, who said the accident happened in 2008. “When he had the heart attack, he did a dead fall forward and hit his head.”
Doctors inserted a stent for Classick’s treatment for the heart attack “before they got the MRI,” Shelby said. Classick ended up in a coma.
“Doctors told him years ago that he was a miracle man, that he came out of the coma and was able to do all the things he’s able to today,” Shelby said. Classick had to relearn how to talk for months after the accident and still has some difficulties.
Classick sees Shelby every Tuesday at Craig Hospital in Englewood, where he does physical therapy exercises. Shelby takes care of Classick from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, doing things like preparing him for the day, getting him food and playing games with him and his 5-year-old granddaughter.
“They’re a wonderful couple to work for,” Shelby said of Classick and his wife, Christine, who also takes care of Classick. “All my clients (are) very gracious, very grateful people. They take you into their home, take you into their family.”
When asked what his favorite part of working with Shelby is, Classick said, “His enthusiasm.”
Tom Kessler, owner of the Always Best Care Senior Services location in Centennial, said Shelby is both dependable and a pleasure to be around.
“The only complaint we hear about Michael is that he can’t be cloned!” Kessler said.
When the Classicks shared the story about Shelby’s rose idea with an Always Best Care representative, it brought people to tears, Shelby said.
“That wasn’t a huge thing to me, but it’s made a huge impact in their life,” Shelby said. “And it’s things like that that I try to do, help out in subtle ways.”
Shelby has a funny side under all his empathy — “I’m famous for my bandanas and silly T-shirts,” said Shelby, who said he’s 51 but 12 at heart.
“We always thought it was funny that my first visit with Nick was April Fools’ Day,” Shelby said as he and Nick laughed.
Shelby said caregiving makes him grateful for the parts of life people take for granted, like being able to walk around and enjoy “the beauty of life.”
“As I pass on to my children and stepchildren, if you love what you do, that in itself is (an accomplishment),” Shelby said. “To really enjoy what you do and then, of course, to get the verbal or other accolades or compliments — that just makes it that much more beneficial.”