A Father’s Support System Helps Heal on Long-Distance Health Journey

Scott Swayne is many things to many people, but above all, he’s a family man. He met his wife Paige in high school—they married 33 years ago and have four children. “They’re the epitome of cute parents who just love each other,” their daughter Hannah described.

A close-knit family who looks out and cares for one another, they were concerned when the normally healthy Scott began experiencing severe headaches. As medical professionals, both Hannah and Paige were especially tuned in to Scott’s symptoms.

The weekend before Scott due to travel out of town on business, the family made a road trip to celebrate his mother’s 80th birthday. “He slept the whole way,” Hannah recalled. “And on the way back, he didn’t remember that he fell asleep.”

Hannah and Paige were concerned, but Scott was committed to being present for his colleagues. After promising them he’d keep an eye on his symptoms, he said goodbye to his family and got on a plane.

It would be the last time he’d be in his home state for two months.

After leading the first day of meetings, Scott’s colleagues noticed he didn’t seem like himself. “They kept whispering, ‘are you okay, Scott?’ I should have gone into the hospital that night,” he said.

The next morning, he woke up and began preparing for another day of meetings.

“I couldn’t figure out how to turn the shower on. And then as I was leaving, I got lost on my way from my room to the elevator in the hotel.”

Realizing the severity of forgetting the most basic things led Scott to meet his colleague in the lobby and ask for a ride to the hospital instead of the meeting.

It was those moments that would alter the lives of the Swayne family forever.

Scott, on his way to the hospital, not knowing what was happening but understanding that something was very wrong.

Paige, Hannah, Austin, Logan, and Emma, all unaware of the phone calls they would soon receive urging them to get on a plane and get to their husband and father as soon as possible.

As Scott was admitted and prepped for immediate brain surgery, daughter Hannah was several states away. She swiftly jumped into action to let loved ones know what was happening.

“At the beginning, we didn’t have that much information,” Hannah said. “By the time I started placing phone calls, my mom had texted me images of his CT scan and could see the brain tumor and the build up of fluid in his brain.”

Both Paige and Hannah knew that news wasn’t good.

“It was really important for me [at that moment] to protect my mom at all costs from her phone blowing up, because I knew she couldn’t handle that,” Hannah said. She acted as a shield for her mom, having several emotional conversations with family members and friends.

“I finished my phone calls somewhere between midnight and 1 a.m., of just telling the same story over and over,” Hannah recalled. “People are crying and everybody’s in shock. It’s hard to listen to that happen for people in real time, as I am also doing it in real time for my own dad.”

When Scott’s family made it to his bedside, he was in bad shape. “The very next morning was his first brain surgery, and we didn’t know if he was going to survive that surgery,” Hannah said.

As a family of faith, Scott’s family prayed over him as they grappled with the uncertainty of what was to come.

The next few months would be a rollercoaster. Scott would endure two brain surgeries and surgery to remove extensive blood clotting in his legs. His wife and children temporarily moved to be close to him in his recovery, but would have to move hotels nine times, as they were in a college football town during peak season.

Man in hospital bed with family

The mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion was taking its toll. They all needed support, connection, love, and prayers.

They decided to start a CaringBridge page, with Hannah writing the updates.

“Within the first night of it being posted, there were almost 2,000 people that ended up on his page,” Hannah said. “When my dad started to become more conscious and aware, he wanted to know what people were saying. We would be in his hospital room, and I would read all the people that visited his site.”

For Scott, the support he received through CaringBridge helped him through those difficult months. “I laid there, so many nights in the dark, in so much pain. I just laid there and I thought, ‘what is my purpose right now? What is happening here and am I ever going to get out of this?’”

As a natural encourager, he found he could use his words to encourage people, even though he was going through the most challenging time in his life. He focused on showing his appreciation for the doctors, the nurses, and for all those that supported him on CaringBridge.

“So many cards were coming in because we could post contact information [on CaringBridge],” Scott said. “The people would bring our mail each day and say, ‘Once again, you got the most mail today!’ So we’d take a picture of me with all the cards that came in [and post it on CaringBridge]. It was a nice way to acknowledge and respond to all of the people that were reaching out to us, because I wasn’t feeling well enough to have those conversations yet.”

For Hannah, it was also about making sure their support network felt like they were involved in Scott’s recovery, even if they couldn’t physically be there with him.

“I was able to provide a very intense amount of detail to make it make sense for people, so they didn’t have to contact me or other family members to ask questions,” Hannah said. “When you’re an outsider, fear sets in when you don’t know what’s happening. It was very important to me for the people who really cared about my dad to have the same access of information that my family did, so they could pray appropriately and provide support in an accurate, updated way.”

Eventually, Scott was well enough to go home, though he wasn’t yet able to fly. The family headed out on another fateful road trip home.

When they got back, there was a huge welcome banner in their front yard. “I felt like I had a huge head start because so many people had been praying for me and cheering me on—it was the perfect environment to come back to. We could share the celebrations, share our joy.”

While there have been numerous ups and downs for Scott since he’s been home, the decision to make a career change has been one of the biggest blessings. He now spends his days working with the church community that rallied around him when he needed support most.

“I’m grateful to be alive. I’m grateful to have another day with my family and my friends around me. [CaringBridge] allowed me to express that. It was not only a way for people to follow [my journey], but also to maybe give them some strength and support too.”