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Gabriel's galactic morning

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Bardstown Middle School surprise sixth grader with skit

By Kacie Goode

The Hadorn’s delivery man has been kidnapped and Sith lords have invaded Bardstown Middle School. After a lightsaber battle leaves many wounded, the Jedi need a hero with a special set of skills to save the day. They need Gabriel Schepker.

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A Bardstown Middle School sixth grader received a special surprise Friday during a morning assembly. Gabriel watched with his classmates as the Star Wars-themed skit presented by staff entered into a hilarious battle in the gym, but when the narrator called Gabriel’s name, his face lit up.

“I was about to jump out of the bleachers and go fight them, and then they called me!” Gabriel said after taking a victory in the skit.

Gabriel, 12, has loved Star Wars since he was just 2 years old.

“His bedroom is done in Star Wars. He’s got a backpack that’s Star Wars,” said mom Carolyn, who showed up at the school with her husband, Jason, and Gabriel’s grandmother. Both parents also grew up enjoying the iconic film series.

Gabriel said his favorite movies are Rogue One and Episode III, and his favorite characters are Anakin Skywalker, Commander Cody and Captain Rex.

BMS reading and writing teacher Eric Hardin (ReadingRainbow Kenobi) wrote Friday’s skit, which included numerous Star Wars characters and incorporated the bakery down the street into its plot.

“Some of our students have to overcome a lot just to get to school, and Bardstown Middle School is an amazing, student-centered place,” Hardin said. “We wanted to celebrate a kid’s passion and we wanted to celebrate a kid who was making it to school as part of our school family.”

Gabriel was born with Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome, a congenital heart defect that causes the right atrium and ventricle to be underdeveloped and restricts blood flow.

Gabriel has undergone three open-heart surgeries to correct the defect, with the first taking place when he was just 5 weeks old.

In addition to the defect, Gabriel also suffers from a life-threatening condition called Protein-Losing Enteropathy, or PLE, which causes an excessive loss of protein in the body. He was the first patient at Norton Children’s Hospital to undergo a pulmonary banding block to prevent PLE, and the procedure was a success his dad said. Gabriel has not required steroids to treat the condition. He is now in remission from PLE and doing well.

But Gabriel’s heart is still weak, and his parents are currently working to get him on a list for a heart transplant.

“They are going to bring him up next month at the Heart Board,” Carolyn said. But it’s possible Gabriel could be declined right now, since he is doing fairly well. “It was a long process of getting the evaluation done.”

The PLE procedure in February improved Gabriel’s health for now, but the family continues to take it one day at a time.

Gabriel lacks a lot of energy because of his condition, and contact sports are really not an option for the student. But he loves videogames, and history — especially war history — is his favorite subject.

Despite numerous doctors’ visits, Carolyn said, Gabriel makes good grades and has a good head on his shoulders.

“He’s a trooper,” she said. “He comes back here and gets all his work done and doesn’t complain.”