DESTIN — Jeff “Swede” Swedenhjelm, a resident of Destin has been left paralyzed after chasing a monkey that had stolen his favorite Pittsburgh Steelers cap on a rooftop in Bali.
During the chase, Swedenhjelm, 40, fell thirty-three feet from the roof and suffered severe spinal cord injury, which has left him paralyzed from the chest down. His family have launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for his treatment.
“A few nights ago, in Bali, I had an accident that has crippled me from the chest down, and has only allowed me to feel a tingling sensation in hands and arms,” Swedenhjelm wrote. “Early diagnosis is that full recovery is rare and partial recovery will take at least three months to gain feeling in my lower extremities and possibly over a year to walk again.”
His daughter, Lyric, 21, told People magazine, “He’s been very strong and very optimistic so we’re feeling really good that he’ll be able to walk again if he just gets the rehab that he needs. We all know how hard it is for him but he doesn’t really say how hard it is. He really just says that he’s gonna be back on his feet soon.”
On December 18, Swedenhjelm sought shelter from a rainstorm under a pavilion in Bali, where he came face to face with a group of monkeys.
“One reached down and grabbed his favorite hat off his head. His favorite Steelers hat off his head — which, if you know him, he ain’t just gonna give that thing up,” Swedenhjelm’s friend Scott Wells recounted in a Facebook Live video. “So he climbed up on the roof of the pavilion, a huge pavilion. It was multi-stories, from what he told me, and he walked on the roof.
“[He] got up to the second floor, got up to the third floor and he was trying to get the monkey to just drop it and run away. That’s the last memory he had.”
Swedenhjelm, who has been living in Bali for the past year where he has run a tour boat, was taken by locals to a hospital where he put into a medically-induced coma for six hours. Since then, he has undergone several surgeries, which doctors hope will reverse the paralysis.
“He should be able to sit up and move his hands in the next couple days, but we aren’t completely positive,” Lyric told People. “[Doctors are] hoping that with relieving the pressure from his spinal cords, the paralysis will go away — but only time will tell.”
“Only extensive rehab is gonna get him walking again so that’s our goal,” she added. “To really just try to raise enough money to get him the rehab that he needs so he can get back on his feet.”
Swedenhjelm’s GoFundMe page, which has so far ammassed $79,820, is intended to cover his medical and transportation expenses. The family has also organized several pub crawls to raise funds for Swedenhjelm.
Today, the family reported marked improvement. They are hoping that the money raised will allow them to transport Swedenhjelm to Kuala Lumpur, where more treatment options are available.
“We’ve made a lot of progress today. His neck brace was taken off. His feeding tube was taken out. His oxygen mask was replaced by small nasal tubes. He is eating solid food. He is sitting up right. It’s a good day to be alive!!!!”