Tom Hildebrand went to bed early to prepare for an early morning meeting.
But he woke up in the middle of the night, in pain and alone. His arms weren’t working, and it took him 20 minutes to get his phone open and call for help.
The ambulance took him to the nearest hospital, where he was told he needed immediate surgery. He’d had an abdominal aortal aneurysm. After a 30-minute helicopter ride to Avera Heart Hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Tom went into a 13-hour surgery.
Tom had recently moved to South Dakota for a new job. He lived alone with no family nearby. His two adult daughters, Annie and Sara, lived states away.
After Annie flew in to be near her father, she also took another action to support him: She started a CaringBridge site for him. During his four-month hospital stay, she provided regular, often daily, updates to his family and friends from all over.
When she returned home, she continued to write journal updates from a distance. Annie called his caregivers every day to get the correct information to keep everyone informed.
The CaringBridge site was often the only way for people to follow Tom’s recovery.
“I couldn’t talk on the phone because my arms didn’t work,” Tom explained. “Because of CaringBridge, my daughter could inform people of my progress. It was a godsend for my family, that she could do this from a distance.”
During that time, he was amazed at how many people followed his story on CaringBridge.
“I thought I was here all alone,” he said. “To think that so many people would check in on me, to know that I had so many people rooting for me, praying for me, made the loneliness go away.”
“It gave me strength. It gave me hope.”
Now, Tom leads a support group for the Amputee Coalition, a CaringBridge partner organization. He’s also playing golf again and sharing the story of his amazing recovery. He says he can’t thank people enough for all they did during his health journey.
In Tom’s last CaringBridge entry, he wrote, “From the bottom of my heart, let me thank you most humbly for all the thoughts, prayers and good wishes.”