HOUSTON -- A Sugar Land man who suffered a severe brain injury on a Costa Rican vacation was finally back in Houston Monday afternoon.
Chad Swenson's insurance company refused to pay for an air ambulance to bring him home, but the real estate agent’s friends and family never gave up hope.
On Monday afternoon, a PHI Medivac Lear jet landed at the Atlantic Aviation Airfield next to Hobby Airport. The precious cargo was Chad Swenson. His mother, Sue Marsh, was also on board.
She hugged friends when they landed.
"We made it," she said.
His wife, Eden Swenson, was also on the jet. She choked back tears.
"It feels so good," she said.
On Oct. 25, Chad Swenson and his wife were vacationing in Costa Rica when, while white-water rafting, a tree limb hit him in the head, fracturing his skull and face.
A fellow tourist was swinging on a tree when that branch fell loose, hitting Chad Swenson and knocking him out of the raft.
That same tourist was also a paramedic, who helped get Chad Swenson out of the rain forest alive.
Eden Swenson said it took three hours for the other rafters to carry her husband out of the rainforest.
"They flipped (a) raft upside, cut off the sides, put him on it and duct taped him to it," she said, adding that she didn’t even know if he was alive.
All told, it took 15 hours by ground before they reached a neurosurgeon in San Jose. Part of Chad's skull was removed while his brain swelled.
"[The procedure] gave room more to his brain by taking out a piece of bone and storing it in his stomach, then they put that back," explained Mischer Neuroscience Institute Neurosurgeon Scott Shepard.
Chad Swenson has had four surgeries since his accident, and has been slipping into and out of a coma.
"He's a tough boy," said his friend, Candace Caspersen.
His family holds onto hope and humor, as his mother shared his special signal when he communicates.
"He has told us, by flipping his foot, he misses his cat. He's got a big cat that's 30 pounds," she said.
The air ambulance flight cost $37,000. It was paid for by an anonymous donor and many friends. A vigil and fundraiser were held earlier this month at Clements High School.
A ground ambulance took Swenson to Memorial Hermann hospital Monday. His wife and mother were still at his side.
"Heavenly Father is with you," Marsh told her son. "You’re gonna be fine. I say that to him all the time. I know he hears me."
The family said updates on Chad’s condition will be posted to chadstrust.com. Donations to help with medical expenses can be made there.
A Facebook page has also been set up for Chad.