Just 16 months after a stroke that came within an hour of killing him, Corey Swensson is set to return to work. He talks to Mathew Grocott about a remarkable recovery made possible by Manawatu's generosity.
After 16 months Project Re-building Corey is almost complete.
Next week Corey Swensson will meet with his employer, Humphries Construction, to discuss his return to work - the latest step in his remarkable recovery from a life-threatening stroke.
The former foreman will work four hours a day, three days a week, doing office work at first.
"He's not going to be a builder again," wife Rochelle said, "but they've got so much stuff he can do."
Mrs Swensson said most businesses would have abandoned her husband after his stroke but Humphries had been incredibly supportive throughout his recovery.
Mr Swensson has already been doing some paper work for the company from home and has tackled a few handyman tasks, installing a shade sail on the back porch and fitting latches to a door.
It's a long way from September 2012 when Mr Swensson was rushed to Wellington Hospital.
He'd had a stroke in the family's Palmerston North home and needed surgery to remove part of his skull to reduce pressure on his brain.
Doctors gave him a 10 per cent chance of surviving the surgery and were unsure if he would even walk again.
Mrs Swensson, who at the time was studying photography at UCOL, documented her husband's recovery and started a Facebook page called Project Re-building Corey, where she posted regular updates.
With ACC refusing to fund Mr Swennson's recovery the couple fundraised with an auction in April, raising more than $40,000.
That allowed Mr Swensson to spend six weeks at Laura Ferguson Rehabilitation in Auckland, where he went from having two physio sessions per week to two or three per day.
The couple said they were grateful to everyone who had helped Mr Swensson's recovery, from those who had donated money to the medical staff who had cared for him.
"I want to thank them all but you just can't because there's too many," Mrs Swensson said.
She said after the six weeks of intensive rehab her husband came back a new man.
"It was good, it was definitely worth the money, definitely worth every damn cent."
Mr Swensson said the experience, where he met many other stroke victims, was a reality check about how lucky he was.
"One guy was re-learning letters, numbers, his memories had gone, his whole life had gone."
In October, Mr Swensson had a titanium plate fitted onto his skull, replacing the bone that was removed the year before.
That was his fourth surgery since September. He has one more to go, where muscles in his face will be reattached to his skull.
Having the plate fitted allowed Mr Swensson to be more active; he started riding a scooter with his son Bjorn, 6, and playing with him in the family's pool.
He said each new experience he tries helps his recovery and allows him to remember how to do different things. The routine of being back at work - the goal of Project Re-building Corey - will be a big help, he said.
"It's just getting used to things again," he said.
"Things will start coming back, going back to work will be the best rehab available."