By Katelyn Weisbrod
It only took one small accident to put an athletic 11-year-old girl’s life in a scary place.
Laurel Schaul, this week’s Kid Captain of Springville, Iowa, was not sure she would ever be able to walk again.
The Kid Captain Program selects a pediatric patient from the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital to be honored at Iowa football games. Laurel’s story will be shared at Saturday’s Iowa/Purdue game.
In September 2016, Laurel was playing on a yoga ball in her basement with a friend. Her friend kicked the ball out from under her, and Laurel fell to the floor.
“She let out this big, big, big scream, and I heard it from upstairs,” said Annette Schaul, Laurel’s mother.
Schaul helped Laurel upstairs, but the pain was so intense she decided to take her daughter to the local clinic.
“We got her in the van, and her legs went numb,” Schaul said. “She was like, ‘Mom, I can’t move them.’ I was crying at that point. I was calling my husband, and he was like, ‘She fell off a yoga ball, and you’re going to an emergency room?’ ”
The doctors at the clinic performed an MRI, and they didn’t like what they saw. They sent the family to the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital. A neurosurgeon did more tests on Laurel and found a hematoma suffocating her spinal cord. She was rushed into a several-hour surgery. Afterward, she had to lie still on her back for 48 hours.
“They said it was not looking good, and they said there’s a 10-15 percent chance she would walk again,” Schaul said. “I mean, she fell off a yoga ball, and you’re telling me she’s not going to walk again.”
But, after a few days, Laurel moved a leg. A few days after that, she moved the other leg. After a few weeks, she started walking. “It was a complete miracle,” Schaul said.
After a lot of physical therapy, Laurel is completely healed. She dances and plays soccer and basketball. Soccer is her favorite; she plays midfield and forward.
Laurel said she is really excited to stand on the field beside her favorite player, defensive lineman Jake Hulett, whose mother happens to be Laurel’s teacher, Alexis Hulett.
Hulett said both Laurel and Jake are excited to share Saturday’s game with each other. Hulett has been Laurel’s teacher for two years now and was there for her throughout the accident.
While Laurel was in the hospital and recovering at home, Hulett visited her regularly to make sure she didn’t fall behind in school. When Laurel went back to school, Hulett helped her ease her way back into her normal routine. She would come out for recess and stay in her wheelchair, but she was eager to play.
“She started to stand more at recess, she wanted to play so bad, bless her heart,” Hulett said. “She made me nervous, but we agreed she could play four square, and I watched her like a hawk.”
Schaul is thankful every day that Laurel was in the 10-15 percent.
“[So many] things went through our head [in the moment],” she said. “One minute you’re fine, but it can change in a second, and you hear that phrase, but it’s reality. We never did tell Laurel her odds, because it’s a mind thing, too.”