Life is a precious thing, and something we often take for granted.
On the night of September 24, 2011, before the Corydon Central vs. Paoli football game, this all changed for one family.
Life is not to be taken for granted because one never knows when it is going to throw a fumble in the game.
On this same night during half-time, the Paoli fans took a moment to give their prayers to the Balsmeyer family. Mrs. Laurie Jo Andry had the idea for a prayer from her husband. The prayer was for Laura Balsmeyer to be healthy again, her family to be comforted and strengthened, the health care providers to have wisdom, compassion, and knowledge to help her.
Almost everyone was beginning to leave the stands when Laura Line called for peoples’ attention. At that time Darren Stroud, Paoli Christian Church youth minister, said a prayer and had a moment of silence.
“As I looked around at the crowd I saw lots of people with tears in their eyes. So many people love the Balsmeyers. They have become such an important part of our school and community,” said Andry.
The reality of what was happening hit assistant football coach, RJ Hartsfield about 3 p.m. that day.
Hartsfield was told he would be taking over the head coaching position while Coach Balsmeyer was in Indianapolis with Laura.
With emotions running high on the night how did Hartsfield know he would be ready to take on the job?
“I felt sad, prepared, but unknowing of all of the little details Coach B. takes care of,” said Hartsfield.
The football players found out that Coach B. would not be coaching before they left for Corydon and senior Brian Wilson watched him drive away.
“I saw him driving away as I was driving to the locker room and then when I got there Josh Rice told me he wouldn’t be here. My reaction was dumbfounded, I felt awful for Mrs. B. and her family,” said Wilson.
Not only were the players surprised to hear the news of Laura, they realized her absence would impact them. She does a great deal for the team and sometimes it only takes one bad event to realize just how important someone is to a team, or more importantly to life.
“Mrs. B brings a lot of encouragement and she sometimes gets us out of some conditioning (when Coach gets mad she will calm him down). She helps with injuries and fills up the water bottles. The football team just isn’t the same without her,” said senior Garrett Sanders.
Athletic director Darrell Newkirk commented that Laura is “everything to the athletic program and football program”.
“Mrs. B. is always checking on injuries and getting water, making sure boys get rest time and keep the coaches on time. There are not enough words to describe what she does and just how well she does it,” Newkirk said.
Her absence would be felt by more than the team.
“People really had to pick up the slack while she was gone, but hopefully soon she can be healthy again,” said Newkirk.
Approximately one year ago, Laura began experiencing severe headaches and became very ill, causing her to miss school.
Doctors first thought her condition was a case of Meningitis, but never followed up on the cause. Throughout the year she traveled to Chicago and other hospitals in search of the answers to this mind-boggling condition.
Today they now know the cause of her sickness. She was admitted in the hospital with sepsis, also called blood poisoning, which came from the infection. The other problem, which is now something she will live with for the rest of her life, is ulcerative colitis.
Now almost one year later she, again, began not feeling well.
In the days before she was flown to Indy, she was feeling worse.
On September 23, she was flown to University of Indianapolis Hospital. Her body had gone into shock and blood pressure level was low from the infection. Mrs. B. stayed in the hospital for ten days.
While in the hospital her kids, sophomores Hannah and Riley, and freshman, Brett, did not get to see their mom as much.
“In the hospital we saw her on the weekends, and we had to do more around the house, but now that she’s home we see her when we get home and after practice or games and the weekends,” said Riley.
Doctors said that for every day she spent in the hospital it takes four days to recover.
Since Laura was in a near-death experience the body needed to heal and to gain strength, but she is in the recovery process and is expected to make a full recovery.
Her daily life has been slowed down now, and she struggles with strength, energy and stamina to do all that she did before, but she is slowly beginning to come back. Laura’s days will now consist of more sleeping so she can recover and regain energy.
Laura has seen at school for half a day the past few weeks and is now trying to work back up to full days.
Some days are better than others, but she is working hard to come back and be with the students. All of the staff members are happy to see Laura returning to school and are happy she will be healthy soon.
“A school day or event without Mrs. Balsmeyer is like a birthday cake with no candles. I really hope Mrs. B gets to feeling 100% better and back into action – sooner than later,” said English teacher Jaye Brewster.
Coach Kyle Neukum also expressed his feelings on why Laura is so important to our school and student body.
“Mrs. B. is the perfect example of how every mother should be. If more mother’s were like her we’d have a better society,” said Neukum.
The school community and SUNSHINE program has come together to help support the Balsmeyer family. Many in the school have reached out with providing meals and words of encouragement to the family.
Another way the community is helping is that matron Barb Grabner went to clean up and do everyday things around the house to keep the family’s mind at ease that their house was being taken care of.
“I decided to clean the house because she is a great person! I know she would do it for me,” said Grabner.
Both the high school and elementary schools have done fundraisers to provide some monetary support as well.
“It is a good feeling that people care,” said Brett.
Not only has the community come to the aid of the family, but the Balsmeyers’ have come together as a family and become stronger than they already were.
When Laura had to stay in the hospital the kids have seen first hand the support from the community and are grateful.
“She hasn’t been around as much as she would’ve liked to be. But it’s made us way stronger and closer as a family even though we were pretty close before,” said Hannah.
No family should ever have to go through this, but when life takes an unexpected turn its important to maintain strong family ties and fight through it as the Balsmeyer family did.
Prayers and kind words help to give people the motivation to get better and return to their normal lives, sometimes it just takes time to heal.
By Jaclyn Thomas