A former Brainerd woman who was seriously injured in a tornado 2 1/2 years ago has been selected to carry the Olympic torch as it passes through Colorado in February.
Pat (MacLeod) Schmidt, a 1974 Brainerd High School graduate, and her husband, Larry, were setting up a booth in a tented pavilion at a summer market in Salt Lake City on Aug. 11, 1999, when the tent was struck by a tornado. About 860 exhibitors were setting up their booths that day, including the Schmidts, who are manufacturer representatives for Costa Del Mar sunglasses.
Soon after the wind picked up, the couple ran for the door. Larry was sucked out into the rain. He found his wife unconscious and pinned underneath a tent support.
For 48 days, Pat was in a coma. She made it through the coma but suffered a brain injury called aphasia, which limits her speech. The effects are similar to that of a stroke, according to the Schmidts. They live in Breckenridge, Colo.
So since she awoke from her coma, Pat has been fighting back from her brain injury. She understands everything, yet has a difficult time communicating. She uses a speech machine to help her communicate and has two independent life skills trainers who work with her. Her rehabilitation includes piano, speech, physical and occupational therapy, as well as horseback riding therapy, pottery, singing, massage, swimming, craniosacral therapy, weightlifting, skiing and bicycling.
Because she has been so inspirational to those around her, Pat had been nominated to become an Olympic torchbearer. She was selected as one of about 11,000 torchbearers who will carry the torch flame across the country to Salt Lake City. Larry said Pat will carry the torch for about 2/10th of a mile near Vail on or shortly after Feb. 1.
Ironically, an Olympic awards ceremony is scheduled in the same parking lot where Pat was injured in the tornado.
Pat's recovery has been a long one, but she has remained positive and upbeat throughout her ordeal, said her husband.
"Slow," said Pat, of her recovery. She had to relearn everything, including how to walk and tie her shoes. She may not be skiing on the hardest slopes, the black ones, like she used to. But Pat has progressed to skiing on the blue-marked slopes.
"She doesn't complain about anything," said Larry, of his wife.
Many of the Schmidts' friends will be cheering and walking with Pat as she carries the Olympic torch. Larry said he and his wife have used humor to help her overcome her injuries.
Pat is the daughter of the late Ardelle and Don MacLeod who lived for many years in Brainerd.
(Those interested in following the torch as it makes it way to Salt Lake City can find information on the Coca Cola Web site, www.cocacola.com.)
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