Berlin Raceway Modified driver Ben Welch has had his fair share of battles on the race track during his racing career. But on Friday, April 26, the 21-year-old had a different battle to fight: the one for his life.
The 2015 Modified track champion fell into cardiac arrest shortly after arriving to his Coopersville, Michigan home from playing basketball with friends at 11 p.m.
“I was playing basketball with a couple friends for a little while up here at a local college,” Welch told Speed51.com. “I got home and was just getting ready to have some pizza and relax, and I bent down to grab a piece of plastic, or like a tarp that was covering some stuff, because we’re doing some remodeling work at the house. That’s really the last thing I remember, I blacked out and I don’t remember anything until the following day about noon when I started coming to.”
Welch’s girlfriend Emily Schoenborn was credited by the hospital and the EMTs on scene for saving his life. The Grand Valley State University nursing student quickly jumped into action and performed CPR until the ambulance arrived. The couple are celebrating their one year anniversary Friday, just one week after he fell into to cardiac arrest.
Welch had no history of heart issues before the event happened. After tests came back normal, he had a defibrillator put in on Monday, so if it were to happen again, it would shock his heart back into rhythm. He was able to return home from the hospital on Tuesday afternoon.
“After I fell, my girlfriend started doing CPR for ten, twenty minutes,” he explained. “My other friends were calling 911 and the ambulance got there and the EMT’s did CPR for another five minutes before they shocked me. They shocked me four times with the paddles and that got me back breathing on my own again. From there, I went to the hospital and I was there until Tuesday about noon.”
The outpouring of support Welch has received from friends, family, and the racing community has been overwhelming. Between messages of support and the help he has received over the past week, he is thankful to have a racing community that is a second family to him.
“It’s crazy all the support I’ve received from friends, family, and especially the racing community,” he said. “All the people I’ve gotten messages on Facebook and text messages from, and all the competitors. Everybody really, just bringing support and everyone saying they’ll be there for me and if I need anything, let them know. I had a couple local race teams made me some dinners and freeze them so I could just pop them in the oven when I need a dinner. It’s crazy the outpouring of support and how lucky we are to have a racing community. It’s basically like a family.”
Welch told Speed51.com on Friday morning that he was feeling good, just a little sore but getting better each day. While he has a rough idea how the recovery process will go, it will depend on a doctor’s appointment next week to see where they will go as he looks to recover and get back behind the wheel.
“I don’t really know yet a hundred percent, I’ll have to wait until my next doctor’s appointment in about a week and a half,” he said. “Right now, they’re saying I just got to let my incisions heal because they put that defibrillator in, so it’s anywhere from three to four weeks. Then I got to talk to the doctor about anything after that.”
The first thing Welch worried about when he woke up in the hospital was getting out so he could go race at Berlin Raceway that night. During opening night one week prior, he won and finished second in the two Modified features at the tricky 7/16-mile oval.
While he may not be able to race for the time being, he is not taking any breaks away from the race track. He is planning to go to Berlin Raceway to watch his dad and a friend test for Saturday night’s racing program.
“I’m actually going to the track today to watch one of my buddies test and my dad might be getting into a local guy’s car to test it out and have some fun. Saturday, I might go to Berlin and watch some of the local racers.”
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN & MI)
-Photo credit: Ben Welch Racing Facebook