Man injured at WE Fest gets support
Julie Nelson smiles as she remembers her friend Mark Schreiner's response when she told him she was running a marathon relay race and would be happy just to finish.
"He was like, 'I don't get it. Why would you run if you're not going to try to win?' " she said. "I mean, that's like Mark in a nutshell. He just goes for it."
Schreiner needs that competitive spirit now more than ever.
The 37-year-old farmer continues to fight his way back from a coma-inducing head injury sustained Aug. 7 in an accident at WE Fest in Detroit Lakes, Minn.
His wife, Shelly Schreiner, spoke publicly for the first time Tuesday about the accident, her husband's recovery, the effects on their two children and the outpouring of community support.
More than 80 people are signed up to participate in a "Miles for Mark" fundraiser Oct. 9 during the FM Mini Marathon in Fargo to help cover medical and other expenses. Nelson said she had to order more shirts after the first 100 sold out.
A pasta feed is slated the night before the race at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Moorhead, where the Schreiners, who dated as teenagers and graduated together from Moorhead High School in 1991, were married 13 years ago this coming Sunday.
An Oct. 10 figure skating benefit in Moorhead will feature Olympian Mark Ladwig, whose past coaches included Schreiner and her sister Dawn Franklin of the Red River Valley Figure Skating Club.
Without media attention, the support has come entirely from word of mouth.
Mark Schreiner's CaringBridge website has more than 12,400 visits. A stranger from Utah told Shelly Schreiner they were taking her husband's name to the top of a mountain with a prayer, she said.
But Mark Schreiner's top cheerleader has been his 4-year-old son, Thomas.
"He just wants him home so he can ride in the combine with him," Shelly Schreiner said.
Thomas and his 8-year-old sister, Samantha, miss their father and are confused, their mother said.
"I think my daughter understands more, but she's also more withdrawn. She's still mad at the situation, where my son is more, 'C'mon dad, give me knuckles,' " she said, extending a fist-bump.
Exactly how her husband - a North Dakota National Guard member for eight years - ended up in his current state is unclear, she said.
According to the Becker County Sheriff's Office, Mark Schreiner was running down an asphalt roadway at WE Fest and tried to hurdle a parked ATV and small trailer. He apparently tripped on the trailer's tongue assembly and struck his head on a parked bus, the sheriff's office said at the time.
Shelly Schreiner said there have been several different accounts of what happened. She assumes it was an accident, but added, "It's hard for me to think that that would be physically possible for that to happen to this magnitude how it was reported."
"It's unimportant to me at this time, because I really am just focused on him and my kids and making sure their lives are as normal as can be," she said. "But ... it would be nice down the road if there were clear answers as to why we were put through this."
Her husband initially was in a coma, followed by a vegetative state during which he could open his eyes, she said.
Now, he's considered "mildly conscious," she said. He follows people with his eyes and watches TV and looks at photos, including a digital picture frame that rotates through images of his children.
"He won't take his eyes off that picture frame until it shuts off," she said. "His kids are his biggest motivation through all this."
In fact, most of his initial progress came when Tommy was in the room with him, she said.
On Sept. 20, he was moved to a St. Paul rehab facility, where he's in a coma stimulation program. The former stockbroker undergoes two-hour blocks of intense sensory stimulation such as TV, therapy and sounds, followed by two hours of silence.
He's moving his left side, and he'll remain at the rehab center as long as he shows progress.
"They said it could be up to two years," his wife said.
Mark Schreiner responds to voices, but whether he comprehends what's being said or just hears noise isn't known, his wife said. Much of his brain wasn't injured, but he suffered a series of mild strokes.
"They have no idea if other parts of his brain will pick up and overtake those other injured areas," she said.
Nelson, who attended high school with Mark and Shelly Schreiner and married another classmate, Tom Nelson, said she was running one day when she noticed the shirts of other runners and came up with the idea for Miles for Mark. Shelly Schreiner signed off on the idea, "and it just kind of blew up from there," Nelson said.
As of Tuesday, the effort had raised more than $6,000 in pledges and contributions.
The FM Mini Marathon is in its second year, and this is the first time it's had a charity giving program, said organizer Mark Knutson of Go Far Events Inc. About 1,750 runners are signed up for the event.
Shelly Schreiner said she's trying to maintain a journal of the support her husband has received so he can read it when he recovers, but it's getting hard to keep track.
Eight to 10 farmers are donating equipment and fuel to harvest her husband's soybean crop this fall.
"It's just amazing," she said.