Texas family finally flies home

December 3, 2010

After a month in intensive care at a Costa Rican hospital, Texas vacationer Chad Swenson is finally back in Houston, receiving critical care at a hospital specializing in brain injuries. Although still in a coma, Swenson’s family remains hopeful his condition will improve with the hospital’s specialized care unit.

Swenson, 36, was critically injured during a rafting trip with his wife Eden Swenson in northern Costa Rica when a falling tree limb struck him on the head. River guides strapped Swenson to the back of a raft with duct tape and carried him through tangled jungle up to the road.

Some 15 critical hours lapsed before medical personnel could transport him to a hospital in San José, Costa Rica’s capital. Since then, he has undergone four brain surgeries in the month since the accident.

On Tuesday, Swenson’s family was finally able to transport him on a private jet back to Houston, thanks in part to donations from friends, relatives and other community members, who helped raise the $40,000 flight cost. 

Sue Marsh, Swenson’s mother-in-law, said she is grateful to Chapelwood United Methodist Church, Keller Williams Real Estate and an anonymous donor for quickly responding with fundraising efforts.

According to members of his family, while Swenson suffered a severe traumatic brain injury, there is hope that he may begin to recover, as doctors believe permanent brain damage may only affect his vision. Still, the family faces a long and difficult road to recovery.

“We don’t know if he’ll ever be able to return to work,” Marsh told The Tico Times.

“It’s wonderful to see him in Houston,” his father, Doug Swenson said. “It’s nice to have him here with family and friends.” 

Last week, Transportation Minister Francisco Jiménez told The Tico Times that while he was unfamiliar with specific details in Swenson’s case, air support is limited.

“Regretfully, Costa Rica only has only one police helicopter and three airplanes operating each day,” Jiménez said. “They are mainly for public safety, but they can also attend to situations in isolated areas, such as this situation.”

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