By Starrla Cray
HOWARD LAKE, MN George Schaar glanced at the clock.
It was 10 minutes after 8, the morning of April 26. Like every other morning, he stepped out of bed and headed to the bathroom.
And, as usual, his wife, Pat, was already up, providing daycare at their home in Howard Lake for 4-year-old Braxton Guslo.
But, as George stood in the bathroom, he quickly realized this wasn’t going to be a typical day.
“I felt myself tipping to one side,” he recalled. “I tried to move my legs apart to brace myself, but I couldn’t move my left leg.”
George attempted to steady himself with his dominant left arm, but that was paralyzed, too. He leaned against the bathroom door for support, grabbing the handle with his right arm to keep from falling over.
Hearing the commotion, Pat called out, “Are you OK?”
“No, help me!” George answered.
Pat tried to open the bathroom door, but George was blocking it.
“I’m going to fall if I let go,” he warned her.
Pat carefully inched the door open, and George leaned on her for balance. But instead of keeping them both upright, Pat fell into the shower, and George fell on top of her.
With George half paralyzed and Pat pinned beneath him, neither of them could move.
A small but big hero
Pat shouted to Braxton to come over, and told him, “I need you to go by the microwave, pick up the phone, and bring it in here.”
Once Braxton brought the phone, George called 911, and told the operator, “I’m having a stroke.”
Pat instructed Braxton, “The police and firefighters will be coming; go stand by the front door and let them in when they come.”
As emergency crews arrived, Braxton led the way.
“It happened that the Howard Lake ambulance was out on a call, so they called the Cokato ambulance to pick me up,” George said.
George was taken to Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia, where doctors confirmed that it was a “very bad” stroke.
“My whole left side was paralyzed; I couldn’t see out of my left eye,” George recalled.
George was given a powerful clot-busting drug, which required special permission from Pat before it could be administered.
“If it doesn’t help, it may kill you,” George explained.
Because of the severity of George’s stroke, he was transported to Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.
“Three doctors and nurses started working on me even before I got out of the ambulance,” he recalled.
George was closely monitored, with therapy to encourage left-side movement every hour for the next 24 hours.
“I was really impressed,” George said. “They all knew their jobs, exactly how to do it and when to do it.”
The medical staff was impressed by George, too. They anticipated he’d be in the hospital at least a week, but by the end of three days, he had passed all the tests.
“I was determined I was going to get better and get out of there,” George said.
Since then, George has been recovering at home, doing occupational and physical therapy to regain his strength. Fortunately, no permanent damage was done, according to George.
Doctors referred to the affected cells in the lower right part of George’s brain as “sick” at the time of the stroke. Because the cells didn’t die, they were able to recover.
“They told us that if Braxton hadn’t picked up the phone and brought it to us, I could have lost my whole left side,” George said. “He’s our hero.”
Pat and George’s five children, 11 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren all share the sentiment that Braxton is a hero. One son gave Braxton a children’s motorcycle, as appreciation for his bravery, and a granddaughter made him an “Official Super Hero!” award. He was also given a shirt printed with the words “amazing hero.”
Braxton is a boy the Schaars will never forget, even though Pat has provided daycare for 175 children in the past 57 years.
Happy to be home
The Schaars have been part of the Howard Lake community for more than 40 years. The couple previously lived in Delano, where George worked for the city and served on the fire department.
George became Howard Lake’s police chief in 1972, and retired in the 1980s. After serving as police chief, he also worked as a shift security officer for the nuclear power plant in Monticello, and was appointed temporary deputy US marshal at the federal courthouse in Minneapolis.
As a former law enforcement professional, George said he was pleased with the service he was given during his stroke.
He specifically esteemed the people from the Howard Lake Police Department, the Howard Lake Fire Department, Cokato Ambulance, Ridgeview Medical Center, and Abbott Northwestern Hospital who, just like Braxton, are heroes in their own right.