Schoff surprises friends, family with visit

PLYMOUTH — When Billy and Kathy Schoff first heard that their 18-year-old son, Austin, had been hit by a car while walking on Michigan Road in February, they never dreamed that he would be walking again and talking just two months later.
“From day one on the rehab floor, the doctors had a progress plan,” said Billy. “They had to keep scrapping it because Austin was progressing so rapidly.”
Austin is still staying on the rehabilitation floor of Memorial Hospital in South Bend, but he used a “day pass” to surprise his friends and family by showing up for Easter services at Church of the Heartland Sunday. While Austin and his immediate family waited in a classroom for the surprise moment, Austin’s parents shared some of their experiences during Austin’s recovery, and their expectation for his imminent release from the hospital.
Austin has 18 staples in the back of his head, a broken clavicle, and severe brain injuries. He also has a feeding tube in his abdomen. He can eat on his own now, but doctors must wait for the skin around the tube to heal before they can remove it. Billy said that Austin remembers who people are, but often cannot recall their names.
“He never once forgot his brother and sister’s names, though,” said Billy. “We would ask ‘What’s your brother’s name?’ And he would say, ‘Devin.’ ‘What’s your sister’s name?’ ‘Destiny.’ He always knew who they were.”
Austin was in a coma for about three weeks after his accident, and his family wasn’t sure what to expect when he woke up.
“Our neurosurgeon told us that he was concerned, and not really sure of the outcome (of Austin’s injuries),” said Billy.
Before Austin came out of the coma, his parents considered transferring him to a brain trauma facility in Indianapolis or Chicago. In the end, he woke up and continued treatment at Memorial Hospital.
“It was an answer to prayer, because if we had sent him to Indianapolis or Chicago, we couldn’t be there with him,” said Kathy. “He needed that emotional support from his family — I think that was important to his recovery.”
If all goes well, Austin will be coming home Friday. He will then continue undergoing speech, occupational, and physical therapy.
Austin and his family were all wearing “Team Austin” T-shirts Sunday, a symbol of the tremendous outpouring of support their family has received from the community during their ordeal.
After Austin joined the congregation — and was greeted by a standing ovation — his family members took a few minutes to thank those gathered for their support.
“I can’t thank you guys enough for all you’ve done,” said Kathy, holding a microphone in one hand and wrapping her other arm around her son. “We couldn’t have done this without our faith and without God carrying us through every moment.”
Austin’s younger brother, Devin, also added his thoughts, gesturing to Austin and saying, “This is an example of how a really bad thing has turned into a really good thing.”