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Steelers fan paralyzed chasing monkey in Bali struggling with infection after surgery

Matthew Santoni
| Friday, Dec. 29, 2017, 6:24 a.m.
Jeff 'Swede' Swedenhjelm watches the Steelers play the Patriots from his hospital bed in Malaysia after spinal surgery in a Facebook photo dated Dec. 28. Swedenhjelm fell from a roof in Bali chasing a monkey that had stolen his favorite Steelers hat.
Scott Wells/Facebook
Jeff 'Swede' Swedenhjelm watches the Steelers play the Patriots from his hospital bed in Malaysia after spinal surgery in a Facebook photo dated Dec. 28. Swedenhjelm fell from a roof in Bali chasing a monkey that had stolen his favorite Steelers hat.
Jeff 'Swede' Swedenhjelm, in a Facebook photo dated Oct. 9. A native of Erie living in Bali, he fell from a roof chasing a monkey that had stolen his Steelers cap.
Facebook
Jeff 'Swede' Swedenhjelm, in a Facebook photo dated Oct. 9. A native of Erie living in Bali, he fell from a roof chasing a monkey that had stolen his Steelers cap.

The Erie native paralyzed by a fall while chasing a monkey that stole his Steelers hat in Bali has had his spinal surgery but is now suffering a lung infection, his friends and family said.

Jeff "Swede" Swedenhjelm, 40, had been airlifted from the Indonesian island to a hospital in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for spinal surgery earlier this week. But Friday, the friend who has been by his side in the hospital said Swedenhjelm had a lung infection that was complicating his step-down from intensive care.

"He is struggling to breathe and as of right now we are playing the waiting game until the medicine and time clears up his lung," wrote Scott Wells on Facebook. "He is exhausted and scared. I have him set up listening to #SteelersNationRadio, which is his comfort right now."

Wells had earlier reported that Swedenhjelm's surgery was a success at repairing some of the damage to his spine, though he still had no sensation or movemenet below his chest. His breathing mask had been swapped for a nasal oxygen tube and he was able to eat and drink Thursday before the lung infection got worse.

Swedemhjelm had grown up in Erie and moved to Destin, Florida 17 years ago before taking off to travel the world, his daughter, Lyric, 21, told the Trib.

He had been running a pleasure-cruise business in Bali for about a year when a monkey snatched a prized Pittsburgh Steelers hat from him; he got the hat back but fell more than 30 feet from a roof last week in his pursuit. Donations helped pay for his transfer via medical flight from Bali to a hospital outside Kuala Lumpur.

A GoFundMe campaign for his transportation and medical bills had raised more than $81,000 as of Friday morning in the U.S.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724 836 6660, msantoni@tribweb.com or on Twitter @msantoni.

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