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FAMILY OF THE YEAR

Knights of Columbus honor Schauble family for faith, perseverance amidst severe trial

The following story appeared in the May 12 Idaho Catholic Register.

Schauble family was named Family of the Year by the Knights. From left are Katie, Mark, Beth, Jake, Mike and Jill Schauble. Their oldest son, Luke, a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville, is not pictured. (Courtesy photo/Knights of Columbus)


By Gene Fadness

Editor


COEUR D’ALENE – One by one, Jill Schauble was sneaking her five children into their father’s hospital room right before he would be taken by Life Flight Ambulance to University of Utah to have surgery to amputate his left leg above the knee.

The Boise hospital where Mike Schauble was a patient still had COVID-related restrictions in place designed to keep patient visits, especially from children, to a minimum.


But Jill, as concerned about her children’s well-being as her husband’s, knew how important it was they see how dad was before the surgery.


“Once the kids could see his face, once they could see his confidence and share the peace that he had, I knew they would be fine,” she said.


It’s a peace and confidence that is inexplicable given the daunting health challenges Mike Schauble has faced since late 2014. Inexplicable perhaps to everyone but the Schaubles.


About 100 people gathered at their home parish, Our Lady of the Rosary in east Boise, to pray for their longtime fellow parishioners just days before the July 2022 surgery. The Schaubles attribute those prayers and those of so many others to Mike’s remarkable stamina and recovery.


“There wasn’t any reason we should be feeling the way we were feeling: peace, confidence, joy, detachment,” Jill says, “no reason except for all those prayers.” In addition, both Mike and Jill point out, the family had consecrated themselves to the protection of the Blessed Mother back in 2011. Looking back on that consecration now takes on greater significance.


Jill had been urging that the family to complete the 33-day consecration when they first learned about it at Idaho Family Camp in 2008. At the time, they had three kids, all under 4. Mike was having a hard time envisioning trying to pray a daily rosary with children so young. Jill persisted and by 2011, with children 1, 3, 5 and 7 (and one not yet born), they completed the Marian Consecration, asking for the Blessed Virgin’s mantle of protection over their growing family.


Little did they know at the time how much that consecration would be needed. Mike attributes his – and his family’s – resilience to the Marian Consecration and their shared faith. His attitude as he waited five long days last July in a Salt Lake City hospital for an amputation was, “If I’ve given my life to Christ, then why should I be worried about what is to come?” He wasn’t worried about the ability of the surgeons, even in the face of their own uncertainty as to whether he would ever walk again. Doctors wouldn’t know until the amputation began just how much of his leg they would have to remove. If they had to go too far, there would not be enough of his leg remaining to be able to attach a prosthetic leg.


DURING ITS STATE convention late last month in Coeur d’Alene, the Idaho Knights of Columbus named the Schaubles “Family of the Year.”


It’s more than likely the honor would have come even without Mike’s health challenges. He has held almost every position with the Knights, including Grand Knight, Deputy Grand Knight, Community Programs Director and Chancellor. He teaches Salvation History to fifth-graders in his parish and helps with youth group on Sunday nights. He leads a 6:30 a.m. men’s Bible study at his parish and is involved with two Cursillo men’s groups.


Jill has home schooled their five children (the oldest, Luke, is now a freshman at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio), leads a women’s small-faith study group, teaches Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in her parish, and, with the help of all her children, heads up the Vacation Bible School for about 150 children and volunteers at Our Lady of the Rosary.


Planning and leading the VBS is truly a family affair for the Schaubles. “Grandma Val” – Jill’s mother – helps out behind the scenes, and Jill’s sister, Faith, flies in from Texas to lead the singing. Luke, 19, and Jake, 17 lead the games. Beth, 15, made 100 rosaries for last summer’s VBS and wrote hand motions for the songs. Katie, 12, also helps with music both at VBS and at the youth Mass at OLR where most of the the family – but definitely not Mike – help with music.


JILL WAS MORE than eight months pregnant with their youngest, Mark (now 8), when, on the day after Thanksgiving, the family went swimming at a relative’s home in Washington state. After he changed out of his swimming suit, Mike noticed a bulge near his inner thigh. Within two months, it had grown to the size of a fist, growing in the middle of five nerves. A doctor removed the top three nerves in his quadriceps. Even though there were tumors present, he left two of the nerves, including the femoral nerve, the largest nerve that helps provide motor function to the quadriceps. The nerve also provides sensory function, allowing one to feel touch, pain and hot and cold temperatures. “If they had removed that, I would not have been able to walk,” Mike said.


Jill gave birth to Mark five days after the surgery, the first day that Mike could be upright.

For the next two years, Mike was able to resume his active lifestyle, coaching his kids’ soccer, basketball and flag football teams and even playing tennis and basketball.


Then, in early 2017, he noticed what he thought was increasing scarring from his surgery, only to learn later that they were not scars, but tumors coming back – five small tumors in the same general area – that likely would not have recurred had doctors removed them all in the first surgery.


Still, Mike does not regret the decision to leave the femoral nerve during the first surgery. He would not have had that time to coach his kids’ teams and still play sports, he said.


After the tumors resurfaced, Mike went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for an examination. They scheduled another surgery for two months later. For this surgery, they would need a vascular surgeon, a plastic surgeon and an orthopedic surgeon. They removed a large amount of muscle and tissue from his upper leg, replacing it with vertical abdominal muscle from his stomach. The surgery took 13 hours.


He would return home with a brace on his leg, but still able to move around. “The doctors said I would probably always need a brace because I no longer had function in my quad.”


Before the surgery, the family had planned a trip to the Grand Canyon and hiking – yes, hiking – through Zion’s, Arches and Bryce Canyon national parks. Three weeks after the surgery, they left on the trip as previously planned.


After one day in Arches, Mike decided he didn’t need the brace, and got around with the use of a cane.


During the trip, he checked in with his doctors at Mayo; doctors who were accustomed to encouraging people to push themselves to exercise their muscles and get used to life with limited mobility. Their ad-vice to Mike was the opposite: “We don’t usually tell people this, but you’re overdoing it,” they told him.


For the next five years, he couldn’t run or play ball, but he continued to help coach his kids’ teams. “I hobbled around the field,” he says. “I tried doubles-tennis, but nobody really wanted me on their team.”


The biggest challenge was the daily compression wrap and the use of a leg pump to help his lymph system to regulate.


IN LATE MAY 2022, Mike began to experience acute pain in his legs. He had a blockage in a major artery resulting from one of the artificial arterial grafts. A surgery was done in mid-June, but just 10 days later, the artery was blocked again. He went to the emergency room and was given pain medication as powerful as Fentanyl but they didn’t “touch the pain,” Mike said.


Doctors had to perform a fasciotomy, a procedure to relieve pressure that cuts off blood flow and nerve signals to muscles and tissue. Doctors cut into the skin on both sides of the calves to release pressure in the leg. However, clots would work their way down to his lower leg. Mike’s calf was swollen so large, he didn’t know how to continue to apply the compression wrap. His left foot turned nearly black. It was then that he came to grips with the fact that amputation was the only option.


Shortly thereafter, came the trip by life-flight ambulance to Salt Lake City. (During the two-hour flight, he engaged in conversation with the EMTs on board about the book he was reading, “The Case for Jesus,” by Brant Pitre and Bishop Robert Barron.)


From Saturday to Thursday, he waited for the surgery. Early in the week, he got an unexpected visit from a doctor who went to school at the University of Utah with Mike’s vascular surgeon. She knew that the team originally scheduled for Mike’s eventual surgery was “not the best option.” She spoke with the head of the cancer unit at Huntsman Cancer Institute, Dr. Kevin Jones, who had attended Harvard Medical School with Mike’s surgeon at the Mayo Clinic.


When the day of the surgery arrived, Mike was told his surgery would be the fourth or fifth in the day. In the meantime, the University of Utah doctor asked Dr. Jones if he could perform the surgery. He was not available, but, at the last moment, his schedule cleared and an operating room was made available. “He took a quick look at me, and he knew what he could do,” Mike said.


On that Thursday morning, he was wheeled into the operating room for a 2- to 3-hour procedure that involved taking the tissue from the “good side” of his leg and bringing it around to help create enough leg to allow for a prosthetic device.


The abrupt change in the surgical team and the availability of an operating room to accommodate that team is “something that I chalk up to answered prayer,” Mike said.


Two days after the surgery, Mike was visiting in his room with Jill who was preparing to return home to Boise. Impressed with his recovery, doctors said he could go home with Jill if he could pass some routine mobility exercises. (“Five years earlier, I had gotten pretty good at getting around on crutches,” Mike said.) The most important exercise he had to complete was to show he could get up off the ground on to a couch. “You’re a rock star, get out of here,” the physical therapist said.


The Schauble children were not surprised when Jill came through the door. However, they were not expecting to see Dad, too, in what turned out to be a glorious reunion filled with laughter and tears.


It was proof of what Mike had told one of his children weeks before who feared that life would never be the same after their previously active dad would lose mobility in one of his legs, or lose the leg entirely.


“They had seen all the steps unfold,” as things got worse, Jill said. “He was always coaching, and after the second surgery, he couldn’t run.” Then, after the last surgery, there was fear he would not be able to walk. One of the kids, “had a moment,” Jill said, fearing that “that everything we did together was going to change.”


“Today, if you ask the kids what is the difference in life now and before all this, they would tell you that other than some mobility issues, there is no difference,” Mike says. “I was joyful before, and I’m joyful now.”


In fact, the family just returned from an 8-day trip to Steubenville to see Luke and then went on to spend a few days together in New York City.


Life goes on, though differently for Mike. There’s still phantom pain and wounds need to heal before he is back on a prosthetic. Don’t interpret that as weakness. Everything is stronger, particularly faith.


If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.




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