Stroke Survivor Fred Swanson

On June 19th, 2017, my dad, Fred Swanson suffered a major stroke.  This was the day after Father's Day.  I vividly remember this day because my husband Marty and I  took my dad, and some other well deserving dads on a free charter fishing trip aboard our boat.  It was an amazing Sunday.  The weather was perfect, the fish were biting and I was able to spend some good quality time with my goofy dad Fred. 

The next morning I was awoken by a phone call from my mother.  She could barely talk and the only words I would make out from her were, "your dad had a stroke......*crying*...he's in the ambulance."  I flew out of bed, and into my car.   Ten thousand thoughts were rushing through my head, but my first responsibility was to pick up my mom.  For those who know my family, and know us well, you'll know that my mom suffered a massive stroke 17 years ago.  From then on, she has not been able to drive and COMPLETELY depends on my dad to help take care of her.  I arrived at my parents house to my mom half dressed and completely in shock.  I got her dressed and we rushed to St. Luke's hospital.  We arrived to a room full of nurses and doctor's evaluating my dad who was paralyzed and could barely talk.  Thankfully, he called the ambulance and arrived to the hospital within 3 hours of the stroke event.  This meant that he was a candidate for a blood clot busting super-drug called "TPA - tissue plasminogen activator."  Within minutes, he was speaking clearly and wanted to jump out of bed and dance with all the nurses.  He felt like a million bucks!!  It was like I witnessed a miracle.  I couldn't believe it.  We were so optimistic that we all left and had breakfast together celebrating dad's miraculous recovery. 

Then, I got a phone call from the hospital that dad was back to the way he was when he came in and maybe even a little worse.  My stomach and my heart sank.  We rushed back to the hospital and into the ICU where dad was recovering.  We paced the floor and sat on pins and needles all day.  I was certain that he was no longer my father, but rather a human vessel where my father once used to be.  But then, the next morning, I went into his room and he was talking, smiling, and telling his usual stories.  (Oh, the stories are endless with him)  I thought I was dreaming.  The brain swelling reduced and once again, he was back to "normal."  He remained in the hospital for a few days, but after a short stint, he returned back home without any kind of mental or physical deficits.  He was even back to his well and pump work in Lake Nebagamon.  It was truly amazing.

One thing to know about my dad is that he is the hardest worker I know.  From jobs as an over the road truck driver, to logger, to well driller/pump installer.  He never stops working.  He's done this all my life.  Although I know that he enjoys his work (moreover, the people he gets to meet), but it's a necessity for him.

My parents do not have large retirement funds.  They do not have pensions, and nor do they have any savings.  They have always lived on what they made since I was born.  This means that both my mother and father live SOLELY on Social Security income and a little bit here and there when dad is successful at putting in a well, or fixing a pump.  He DEPENDS on that money to survive.  Both my brother and I pitch in and we are happy to do so but the next part of my story will explain why this Go Fund Me page exists. 

On Saturday March 10th, 2018 - just 9 months after his first stroke, dad suffered yet another stroke.  This time the symptoms were not as obvious.  He was at my house earlier in the day helping me take apart and carry a treadmill into my basement (don't worry, my husband and I did most of the heavy's job was to tell stories).    He said he was tired and my parents went home.  On the way home, my dad became dizzy and his hands began to tingle.  They grabbed a quick bite to eat at their favorite Chinese food restaurant and went home.  Dad still wasn't feeling well so he took a nap.  When he awoke from the nap he immediately called me.

"Rikki, I'm not feeling right and I think I need to go to the hospital."

Me:  "Dad, I'm calling the ambulance.  Don't mess with this."

"No, no, just come and get me.  I'll be ok until then."

Me:  "No.  I'm hanging up.  Get dressed and the ambulance will be there soon."

I met dad at St. Luke's hospital....things were all too familiar.  Nurses, doctors, lab techs, radiology techs all swarming over him like a beehive.  He was speaking clearly but he had lost his vision in one eye and he couldn't stay vertical when walking.  His scans came back clear, but his Triglyceride levels were out of this world high.  High Triglyceride (TG) levels can cause the plaques in your blood vessels to release.  Plaque (just like the stuff on your teeth) cannot be dissolved by blood thinners.  With the TG levels being so high, his past history and presenting symptoms, he was admitted to St. Luke's hospital with an uncertain diagnosis.

Overnight he lost his ability to move his right leg and arm.  By morning he was paralyzed.  He was taken in for an MRI that day.  The MRI indicated that he suffered yet another stroke and this time the damage was irreversible.  The news sent our whole family into a tail spin. 

The one saving grace in all of this is that the brain is such a complicated organ that there is a glimmer of hope.  Because my dad is the hardest working man I know, he is DETERMINED to walk again - even if it's using a walker.  This determination and hard work got him a bed on the 8th floor of St. Luke's where they perform intensive inpatient Physical and Occupational rehab on their patients.  They have one goal in mind......discharge the patient to their home and as independent as they can be. We are optimistic and taking his therapy day by day.    He will be there for the next 3 weeks.

During this time, my brother and I are caring for my mom.  She and my dad's dog Max live in Poplar and require daily check-in's, care, and rides to and from to see my dad.  Yes...Max goes to the hospital each day too!

Plain and simple, we need your help. 

We need your help to pay my parents bills that are piling up while dad is immobile. 

We need your help to pay for the out of this world care that dad is receiving at St. Luke's. 

We need help to give my mom the care she needs while my dad is recovering.

We need your help to ensure that whatever his outcome is, that he and my mom don't have the stress and burden of making ends meet while dad is trying to heal and recover.   We are still faced with the question.....will dad ever walk again?  Only time will tell.

I have had MANY people ask me what they can do to help.  Us Swanson's, we are hesitant to ask for help, but if there's anyone on this planet that I know that is a TRUELY good hearted man who would give you the shirt off his back, it's my dad.  He's helped and supported so many people in his life and NOT ONCE could he ever afford it!  He would just put in another well, or pump to make enough for gas and groceries for himself and my mom. 

From the bottom of my heart.....thank you.  Thank you for reading his story.  Thank you for knowing my dad.  Most importantly, thank you for keeping him in your thoughts and prayers. 

--Erika, the eldest daughter


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Organizer and beneficiary

Erika Running 
Duluth, MN
Fred Swanson 
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