By University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital
IOWA CITY, Iowa — September 12, 2016, was a day Laurel Schaul and her family will never forget.
Laurel was in her family’s basement with some friends, sitting on a yoga ball. A friend kicked the ball out from under her, causing Laurel to hit the ground.
“I heard her scream like no other scream a parent would ever want to hear from a child,” remembers Laurel’s mother, Annette. “I got her to stand up and we walked upstairs, and she was still screaming.”
Annette initially thought Laurel’s injury was minor, but she soon realized her daughter’s reaction was not normal. She took Laurel to a local urgent care clinic where staff quickly directed them to a local hospital.
“When we got her into the van (to go to the hospital), I said, ‘Can you feel your legs, Laurel?'” Annette recalls. “She said, ‘Yes, but I can’t move my legs.'”
In the local emergency room, Laurel underwent an MRI. Her doctors told her she had a mass on her spinal cord, and transferred Laurel to University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
Specialists met with Laurel and her family once she arrived at the University of Iowa Health Care emergency department. After reviewing Laurel’s MRI, a neurosurgeon explained that the “mass” on her spinal cord was actually a hematoma.
A hematoma is an abnormal collection of blood outside of a blood vessel. Due to its location, it posed significant risks for Laurel.
“They had to go in and release that blood from the spinal cord to take pressure off the spinal cord,” explains Annette. “I was scared to death. It’s something you never think is going to happen to your child.”
Just seven hours after her fall, Laurel was rushed to the operating room, where she underwent an almost six-hour surgery to remove the hematoma. The surgery was successful.
“From what the neurosurgery team said, if we had waited one more hour, she would have possibly had a different outcome,” says Annette.
After her surgery, Laurel’s care team cautioned the Schauls about her recovery.
“The doctor said, ‘The next 48 hours are going to tell us what her outcome will be. She may or may not ever walk again. We’re giving her a 10 to 15 percent chance,'” says Annette.
For the next two days, Laurel had to lay flat and still to keep her blood pressure up and blood away from her spinal cord. Soon after, Laurel began working with a physical therapist to walk.
“Watching her walk for the first time…she was determined,” says Annette. Laurel’s neurosurgeon “came running up, saying ‘What’s going on here? You are a miracle in that surgery room.’ He literally had tears in his eyes when he saw her walking.”
Laurel’s determination continued, and she grew stronger each day.
“It took eight days to have her pretty much fully recovered to walking again,” says Laurel’s father, Larry.
Laurel’s UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital care team holds a special place in the hearts of the Schaul family.
“The way they treat you around here…it’s like family,” says Larry.
“The medical team is phenomenal. They instantly make you feel comfortable. They are very knowledgeable. You can tell they go above and beyond any other hospital,” adds Annette. “You hear all the time how amazing it is, but you don’t realize that until you’re here.”