Veteran and former St. Francis student seriously injured in snowmobile accident

When the sheriff knocked on her front door the afternoon of Jan. 5, Nina Hedin’s stomach dropped and she knew it would be bad news.

Tom and Nina Hedin with their children Jack (now three) and June (now seven months). Photo courtesy of the Hedin family

Tom and Nina Hedin with their children Jack (now three) and June (now seven months). Photo courtesy of the Hedin family

Her husband Tom had gone snowmobiling earlier in the day and had not returned home when expected. Normally he checked in with his wife through text messages fairly regularly; this time she had heard nothing from him and had been becoming increasingly worried.

The sheriff confirmed that 33-year-old Tom Hedin had been in a serious snowmobile accident and was being airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center.

Tom attended St. Francis High School from 1995 though 1998. He served in the Army from 2000 to 2004, where he was a light wheeled vehicle mechanic stationed in Germany with the 272nd MP Company. In 2002 he was reassigned to the 10th Mountain Division and completed a tour in Afghanistan. His hobbies include working on small engines, fixing up the family’s 1884 house and spending time outside.

Tom’s list of injuries was long and frightening: brain hemmorhage and complications, a fractured orbital (eye) socket, a fractured T6 vertebrae, broken and dislocated right wrist, broken left elbow and fractured upper arm, broken left knee cap with severed tendon and puncture wound, and right knee ligament injury.

Tom had been riding with two friends just west of Glencoe, along the north side of Highway 212. Ahead of the other riders, Tom had ridden up over a hill, not realizing that it was actually a deep drainage ditch. He struck the embankment at high speed and was flung 30 feet from the point of impact. The second rider was also injured, but the third was able to stop before going over and called 911.

Nina said Tom does not remember the accident at all.

A week and a half later, Tom remains hospitalized and is making slow and steady progress, said Nina. He has had knee surgery and arm surgeries, and he is more cognizant with each passing day. He is able to talk, but he is experiencing short-term memory loss and possibly other cognitive issues, although it’s unclear whether those are due to the brain injury or the strong pain medication. It will likely take several months for Tom to recover; his fractures will need time to heal. Only time will tell whether Tom will recover fully from the trauma to his brain.

Nina said she and Tom, who have been married for three years and live in Glencoe, are lucky to have a strong support system. She and the couple’s two children, three-year-old Jack and seven-month-old June, have moved in with her parents. She has been able to spend six to 10 hours per day at the hospital with babysitting help from both of their families.

The couple’s daughter is obviously too young to understand what’s happened, and Nina said their son is not old enough to realize just how long his father has been missing. “When he asks about Daddy, we say that he’s at the doctor and try to redirect him,” she said.

“He is easy going and loves to make others laugh,” said Nina. “He just started working for Seneca Foods in Glencoe as a plant mechanic in June of 2012.”

Until the accident, Tom’s job had been the family’s main financial support. And because he had worked for his new employer for only six months, he does not qualify for Family and Medical Leave Act benefits. Mounting medical bills are obviously putting a serious financial strain on the couple.

Those who want to help the Hedins during this difficult time may make a donation at www.giveforward.com/helpfortomhedin.

“It’s a cliché,” Nina posted on Tom’s CaringBridge site, www.caringbridge.org/visit/thomashedin. “You hear it all the time… but you don’t really get it until something happens to you and yours. Life as you know it can change in an instant. Hug your kids, your husband, your mom, your dad, your neighbor, your friend. You never, ever know what the next moment might bring.”

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