Just three months ago, Jeff “Swede” Swedenhjelm was in a coma after falling 33 feet from a rooftop in Bali while chasing a monkey that had stolen his favorite Steelers cap.
By Maddie Rowley | 315-4353 | @maddiedestinlog | firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeff “Swede” Swedenhjelm pumps his arms back and forth in the video, face grimacing with determination as his physical therapist sits beside him on the bed.
He’s looking out the window of his Malaysian apartment as he makes a flying motion with his arms. The weights wrapped around his wrists don’t seem to slow him down. His wheelchair is tilted back at a 45 degree angle.
Just three months ago, the former Destin resident was in a coma after falling 33 feet from a rooftop in Bali while chasing a monkey that had stolen his favorite Steelers cap. The fall paralyzed him from the chest down.
Now, Swede is working toward recovery.
“His short-term goal is to be able to use his hands to finish his book,” said his daughter, Lyric Swedenhjelm. “It’s basically going to be about his life, the journey he’s currently on and his experiences.”
Lyric, a 2015 graduate of Fort Walton Beach High School, keeps up with his daily progress from half a world away in Chicago, where she attends college.
“We talk on the phone once a week,” Lyric said. Later this month, she’s flying to Malaysia to visit the dad she hasn’t seen in two years.
Lyric posts regularly on Facebook about her dad’s progress and sends him encouraging notes. “Just a quick shout out to my Dad! I’ll see you in 9 days to be cheering you on right by your side! Love you!” she wrote recently.
A Go Fund Me account created shortly after the accident raised almost $100,000 so Swede could be medevaced out of Bali to Malaysia, where he would receive better medical care.
Swede recently moved out of the hospital in Kuala Lumpur to a small apartment that he shares with longtime friends and former Destin residents, Scott Wells and Jerry Turner. Both men moved to Malaysia to help Swede heal.
The end goal is for Swede to move back to the U.S. when he is able to sit up in his wheelchair without fainting due to lung issues.
“His progress is slow-going but we celebrate the small victories every day,” Lyric said.
There is a new Go Fund Me page set up to help with Swede’s ongoing medical expenses. So far, it has raised $14,310 out of the $16,400 goal.
“We are so appreciative of all the help from everyone. We still have a long road to recovery, so every little bit helps,” said Lyric.
Overall, Swede’s spirits remain high. He writes poems on Facebook about his progress and everything that has changed since the accident.
On Monday, he wrote: “In my former life I lived every day like it may be my last, smiling at strangers, smelling the roses, dancing in the rain, and driving too fast! My former life is over now and quite a bit has changed, I guess it could be said my resources are a bit limited and my schedule a bit rearranged?”
Swede’s sense of humor remains active and his rhymes contain positive messages. At the end of each post, he reminds everyone that “It’s a great day to be alive!”