Aggies inspired by an accident
Incident this past July has led Aggies on road to Indianapolis
July 2011 started just like any other July in the life of a Division I coach for Texas A&M associate head coach Vic Schaefer. Recruiting dominates the month as coaches around the nation attend AAU tournaments.
On July 12, Schaefer was in Cincinnati with his daughter at the 13-U AAU National Championship. Blair’s twin brother, Logan, was at Frontier Camp in east Texas.
At 8:35 that morning, Schaefer received a call that Logan had been in a wakeboarding accident and was in critical condition.
“He was unconscious, unresponsive and seizing in a real small-town hospital,” recalled Schaefer. “He was in a real bad spot and they were wanting to life-flight him somewhere as quickly as possible.”
He had a subdural hematoma, and the bleeding on his brain created excess pressure. As Schaefer and his daughter raced back to Texas, all thoughts of basketball vanished.
“When we got to Tyler,” said Blair Schaefer. “I couldn’t see my brother because he was in surgery, but the surgery went well. I was in there whenever I could be. I wasn’t going to stay [in Ohio, at the AAU Tournament]. I could not play basketball knowing my brother could die. I couldn’t do that to him because I know he’d be there if I had something happen to me.”
From the moment Vic Schaefer arrived in Tyler, Texas, basketball was an afterthought at best.
“When it happened,” said Schaefer. “I told my wife I’m going to get him through this. But I don’t want any outside distractions. I don’t want to talk to anybody. I don’t have time for anybody. This is our son. I didn’t leave his side for 39 days. I spent the night in the hospital with him. I spent 28 days in TIRR with him, day and night.”
TIRR Memorial Hermann has been prominent in the national news in the last few months, as it is where Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is continuing her rehabilitation after she was shot in January.
The Aggie community was eager to do what it could to help in Logan’s recovery. A “Prayers for Logan” Facebook page quickly grew over 1,000 members, while a husband-wife team of local entrepreneurs and Aggie supporters developed a t-shirt and a “Lift Logan Up” slogan to fundraise in support of the Schaefer family. As a result, nearly $4,000 was donated back to the East Texas Medical Center and TIRR in October.
“When they asked what we would like to do with the money,” said Schaefer, “I said let’s give it back to the people who saved him.”
Schaefer essentially walked away from his job at Texas A&M in order to spend 39 days with his son, morning and night, during his hospitalization.
“When we walked into TIRR, I was prepared to be there three, four, five months,” said Schaefer. “I told the nurse that first day that I may not have a job when all of this is over, but I’m going to have a son.
“That was the beauty of our staff,” continued Schaefer. “[Texas A&M head coach Gary] Blair, Kelly [Bond, Associate Head Coach] and Johnnie [Harris, assistant coach], they were very supportive. It was in the middle of recruiting in July. They took care of all that and just allowed me to be a dad and take care of my son.
“There was never any question of when do you think you’re going to be back, how long is this going to take, none of that. And that’s what we pride ourselves on at Texas A&M. The family atmosphere with our players, with our coaches and we are, Johnnie and Kelly are my sisters. Coach (Blair), I’ve been with him for 14 years. I can’t imagine life without them. We’re that close. It was really a time for them too where they were concerned, but at that time they had a job to do and I was taking care of the most important job, which was my son.”
Logan Schaefer has made a nearly complete recovery from his injuries and is back playing baseball and taking the same class load as his sister as the now 15-year-old twins negotiate ninth grade.
“It’s been entertaining, actually,” said Blair Schaefer of her brother’s recovery. “He’s very un-filtered, so he says everything that’s on his mind and some things are OK to say and some aren’t OK, but he’s learning everything over again. He wants to go out and wakeboard again and my parents don’t want him to. It’ll come with time. His grades are pretty good for what he’s gone through and we have all of our classes together except for athletics, when he goes to baseball and I go to basketball. But he’s doing really well for everything he’s gone through.”
Logan’s ordeal has inspired the Texas A&M women’s basketball team as well.
“I think it changed his life for the rest of his life,” said junior guard Sydney Carter. “It made such a big impact on his life and what he values the most and what things are important and what’s not. It really helped the team out sharing that story with us. We realized the importance that he’s had in our lives as a whole and what he’s done for this program.”
Both of Schaefer’s children are in Indianapolis for the Final Four, and Blair is certainly enjoying the experience.
“Knowing that my dad has gotten them so far in the tournament it has been very cool to watch them,” said Blair. “We’ve been there at every home game and we go to every away game that we can and my dad has helped them get there. From where my brother was at he compares how my brother fought how hard he fought every day in the hospital. He would shake for hours and he would sweat and me and my dad would just dab his face with a washcloth and he would fight so hard to keep breathing and to keep his body from doing things that were bad for him and he would fight through physical therapy and he has told his kids at A&M the same thing. You have to fight no matter how hard it gets or how tough. At practice if your day isn’t good you have to keep fighting just like Logan did and that gives them encouragement to fight harder in games.”
“I think that it’s definitely motivation for us,” said Carter, “to actually go out there and say not many people have the opportunity to do this, so make the most of it.”
“I don’t think people really realize how far he came in such a short time,” said Schaefer. “He went from, when we went to TIRR, he was on a gurney, on a stretcher. Couldn’t walk. Couldn’t talk. Couldn’t hold a fork in his right hand. Seven days later, he’s walking unassisted down the hallway. Then 28 days later, we’re out. It’s just a miracle that he was able to not only get back and get to where he is today, a regular guy that’s in AP geometry as a freshman in high school, but to get there as fast as he did. Now he’s a freshman on the sophomore baseball team. He’s hitting the ball extremely well, he’s back to being that athletic kid that he was and yet back on July 12, you walk into a hospital room and he was on life support. That’s a long way to come in such a short time.”
The Aggies will play in the first Final Four in program history on Sunday evening, facing Stanford in the first semifinal match-up. The Schaefer family is ready.
“They allowed us to have 25 characters on the inside of our Final Four rings,” said Schaefer. “And I chose to have written ‘Life-flighted to the Final Four.’ So it’s been pretty emotional. I think that was part of my emotion after we beat Baylor the other night when my wife and I hugged. It’s been a whirlwind of eight months. The first two were very trying, very challenging with my son and then the next six I spent with these kids. These kids care about me, care about family, care about my son and daughter and they were concerned as well so they really, they’ve embraced my family and I appreciate that.”