Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
Sara Schultz sensed something was terribly wrong. Her husband, "Monster" Mike Schultz, was competing in a qualifying race in the Pro Super Stock class of the Amsoil Championship Snocross event Dec. 13 at Ironwood, Mich. But there was a delay before the next race, which rarely happens. An accident had stopped the event and Mike was injured. Several minutes passed before Sara came upon the scene and realized her husband was hurt. "Once I saw Mike, I saw the amount of blood," she said. "Being a registered nurse, I knew it was bad, but I don't think I realized the extent that it led to." As Mike was jumping over a mogul, his snowmobile drifted sideways. When his sled came down, Mike's left leg slammed down hard into the track and his leg buckled, resulting in nerve damage, a compound fracture, and lacerated artery. "It took a little while for track officials, and emergency medical technicians to get to me because the track is really big," Mike said. "They got me on a backboard, and eased me down the hill to an ambulance. I was in severe pain the whole time. It was kind of unbearable." Gary Walton of Brainerd was snapping photos a few yards from where Schultz crashed. He didn't see the wreck happen but turned to see Schultz's sled coasting down the hill with Mike laying off to the side. Walton rushed to Schultz's aid. "In a lot of crashes you get stunned and it takes a few seconds to regain your senses," Walton said. "It was a good couple minutes and he was still laying on his back. Blood was squirting. I could tell it was not an ordinary incident." Emergency personnel transported Mike to the hospital in Ironwood but his injuries were so severe he had to be treated elsewhere. Duluth was the nearest alternative, but, bad weather forced Schultz to make the approximate 2-hour trip via ambulance. "It was nasty," Mike said of the ride. "They couldn't give me any pain (medication). I was losing so much blood. I had to grit my teeth the whole way. It was the longest hour and a half of my life." A team of surgeons was waiting at St. Mary's Hospital in Duluth where Schultz underwent multiple surgeries over the next three days. "I don't remember about two and a half days or so," he said. Sara said Mike received about 20 units of blood in the first few surgeries. "One doctor said the tibia fracture was the worst he had ever seen," she said. "Blood was flowing down to Mike's foot, but it wasn't coming back up." The night of Dec. 15, doctors approached Sara with what she thought was the inevitable decision-whether to amputate the leg or attempt to save it. But Sara said Mike had to make that decision. "They woke me up and told me that they might have to take the leg off because the damage was so bad to the main artery," Mike said. "The nerves to my lower leg were all severed from the compound fracture. They said they could attempt to make the leg work, but I would never have full function and it was going to take a handful of surgeries to get it to work at all. "I didn't want to be a couple months in the hospital so I said, 'You guys are the experts. You know what it would take.' They said (many surgeries) would really run my body down, so I decided to remove it. "I had no idea it was that bad. I figured they could patch and bolt it all together. When they said (amputation) was a possibility it was a pretty big shock." On Dec. 16, Mike's leg was amputated above the knee. He was hospitalized until Christmas Eve when he and Sara returned to their home near Pillager. "I don't know what I would have done without Sara," Mike said. "She helped me so much through the whole ordeal." Friends have followed Mike's ordeal at www.caringbridge.org/visit/mike schultz. The Web site has had tens of thousands of hits, inquiring about Mike's plight and watching his progress. "CaringBridge is the best thing in the world," Mike said. "So many people have offered help and support in every way. I was like, 'Wow. I didn't know that many people even knew me.' "(The support has) been overwhelming. I can't believe all the help we're getting. I appreciate every bit of it. Hopefully, some day, I can repay the favors." Mike isn't sure what the future holds. He will be fitted for a prosthetic leg after a few months of healing and he will have to learn how to walk again. Racing, particularly snowmobiles, has been his life. He has competed in the X Games several times and was scheduled to return there this year. In the last few years he has had five national podium finishes but was searching for that elusive victory. "I don't know if I will ever race snowmobiles again," he said, "but there's always an option of crawling into a roll cage and racing trucks or cars. "I love racing. I'm sure, in the future, once I get used to using a prosthetic, I will move forward, and move on to something different. "I definitely want to stay active. I think I will be able to do about 95 percent of everything I used to do, except shift my dirt bike. I definitely would like to stay in racing, one way or another." Sara and Mike are high school sweethearts so she's been with him since his first snowmobile race. The Schultzes love to attend motocross and stock car races south of Brainerd and even have a dirt-bike track at their home. "Yes, Mike lost a leg, but we know he will get back walking and moving before we know it," Sara said. "The hardest thing is that our lifestyle will change. Our life has revolved around motorsports. "But we're a good team. We'll get through this. We'll find something new and different. I don't think we'll ever leave the racing community. We will be involved in some way, shape or form." The racing community won't be the only one that will benefit from the Schultzes' involvement.