Paul Ausman and Raquel Hoepner-Ausman suffered traumatic brain injuries 16 days apart in April 2017. Two-and-a-half years later, both Paul and Raquel are on the comeback trail.
Paul Ausman was never shy about throwing a curveball during his days as a professional baseball pitcher.
But Ausman and his family have seen more curveballs in recent years than many families see in a lifetime.
After both Paul and his wife suffered significant brain ailments 16 days apart in April 2017, theyve continued battling and two-and-a-half years later they and their family are on the comeback trail.
While their road to recovery is far from over, they move into Thanksgiving improving every day with plenty to be thankful for.
Raquel and Paul's injuries came when their son Andrew (center) was a senior at McDonell. Andrew is now a junior at UW-Eau Claire.
Raquel Hoepner-Ausman worked at Macys in Oakwood Mall for 26 years until the store closed in March 2017. A month later she collapsed after suffering a brain aneurysm in her familys home in Chippewa Falls and was taken to HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire before being airlifted to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota.
A little more than two weeks later, Paul was taken to the emergency room at HSHS St. Josephs Hospital in Chippewa Falls being before taken to Regions and diagnosed with having a brain tumor the size of a golf ball.
Both Paul and Raquel faced grueling recovery roads as their daughter Nikki lived in the Minneapolis with her family and a full-time job, and their younger son Andrew was finishing his senior year at McDonell.
A day after being admitted into Regions, Paul had a brain biopsy and was diagnosed with Lymphoma of the brain, and on May 4, 2017, had surgery for an enlarged lymph node.
Pauls vocal cord was accidentally nicked during the procedure and he lost his voice and could barely talk. The beginning of the same month, Raquel was transferred to a long-term care hospital in St. Paul and started to relearn to speak, eat and respond to commands.
She was later moved to a nursing home in Bloomer before needing brain surgery less than a year later to repair a blood vessel in her brain and had to start the process of relearning to eat, speak and respond to commands all over again.
Paul was approved for stem cell therapy and underwent his first attempt at a stem cell transplant on Sept. 28, 2017, in Rochester, Minn.
However, less than a month later, Paul was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer in both eyes, putting the stem cell transplant on hold while multiple surgeries were performed in both eyes to attempt to remove cancer cells. Follow-up chemotherapy injections into his eyes were performed until the start of the stem cell procedure, which he was able to restart in February 2018.
Paul was discharged from the stem cell transplant hospital on March 27, 2018, one day before Raquel had her brain surgery.
Raquel moved to the Rutledge home in Chippewa Falls in early June, across the street from the Ausman home, where she currently resides and rehabilitates.
Paul continued to receive chemotherapy shots in his eyes to keep the lymphoma in remission and recently has moved to a daily pill. Paul still makes monthly trips to Rochester as his body rebuilds its immune system.
Paul graduated from Eau Claire Regis High School and was drafted in the 14th round of the 1973 Major League Baseball amateur draft by the Milwaukee Brewers. He played in the minor leagues for five seasons with the Brewers and Minnesota Twins, compiling a 2.93 earned run average across 147 games and 276 innings.
He reached as high as AAA with the Twins and nearly cracked the big league roster as the final cut during spring training.
The left hander shared the field with future Hall of Famers such as Robin Yount, Dave Winfield, Jack Morris, Rod Carew, Alan Trammel and Bert Blyleven before his career was finished after the 1977 season.
Paul would return to the area and earn his bachelor degree at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire before getting his masters from the University of Iowa.
He worked a number of jobs in the area, most recently as a store manager for the Mega Holiday station near the Family Fare grocery store downtown in Chippewa Falls.
When the Ausman family needed help, it came from a familiar face to the Chippewa Falls baseball community.
In the days and months after Paul and Raquel suffered their initial ailments, medical bills started piling up, as did the stress of figuring out how to take care of the bills. The family researched grants that could help them with their mounting medical costs, but nothing they found would shoulder the load.
Thats when Joe Vavra came into play.
The Chippewa Falls native and longtime MLB coach met Ausman after Vavra was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the eighth round of the 1982 draft.
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