Buy Photo

UW redshirt freshman center Joe Hedstrom had a big scare scare when his father almost lost his life from a bicycle accident on April 5. (Photo: Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

MADISON – Joe Hedstrom feared the worst when he learned the details of the gruesome injuries his father suffered during a bicycle accident on April 5 in Minnesota.

Peter Hedstrom suffered a traumatic brain injury, a skull fracture, a broken collarbone, three broken ribs, bruised lungs and a fractured ear canal.

“Once you hear that you break down a little bit,” Hedstrom, a redshirt freshman center on the Wisconsin men’s basketball team, said by phone Tuesday. “Your thoughts when things happen like that tend to go to the worst-case scenario. So, I definitely thought about things like that.”

About losing his father, who is only 59.

Later that night, doctors delivered an encouraging update.

“It was great news when we heard he was stable,” Hedstrom said. “He’s not going to die today. He’s going to make a full recovery, Lord willing.”

The 16-plus days Peter Hedstrom spent in a hospital, including the first five in the intensive care unit, tested the strength of the family members, brought them closer together and in the end buoyed their faith because of the generosity of others who raised more than $17,000 through a gofundme page.

“It has been crazy to see the amount of support,” Joe Hedstrom said. “It has meant a lot to us.”

The ordeal started on a gorgeous spring day near Lake Minnetonka. Joe Hedstrom and his brother Eric were fishing. Peter Hedstrom and his wife, Sharon, went for a bike ride.

“They were going down a hill,” Joe Hedstrom explained, noting his father was wearing a helmet. “It’s a crappy part of the road with so many little divots and pot holes. They both had both hands on their bikes. They weren’t doing anything crazy. It was a freak accident in my mind.

“And my dad is so steady and careful. He is very careful about always driving the speed limit, always wearing a seat belt and always wearing a helmet, which was a huge deal.

“The helmet saved his life the doctors told us.”

According to Joe Hedstrom, his father was rushed by ambulance to North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale. His mother was allowed to ride along.

After spending five days in the intensive care unit, Peter Hedstrom was moved to a trauma rehabilitation floor. He was discharged from the hospital and returned home on April 21. According to Joe Hedstrom, his father is aware of his surroundings, speaking clearly and glad to be home. He isn’t allowed to drive or return to his job at a non-profit organization, however. 

“Honestly, it’s just a miracle that he is doing as well as he is and he has been able to make such amazing progress in the last three weeks,” Joe Hedstrom said.

Sharon Hedstrom was the only member of the family allowed to see Peter Hedstrom in the hospital and that was limited to the day of the accident. Doctors took extra precautions because of the concern over COVID-19.

The coronavirus pandemic did result in one positive development. Because UW switched to online classes from in-person instruction earlier this spring, Joe Hedstorm has been home throughout the ordeal.

“It is definitely a blessing in disguise,” he said.

Another blessing? Seeing a total of 163 people, many strangers, combine to donate a total of $17,439 for the family.

Teammate Brad Davison and UW diver Alexandra Zeiss, talked about starting a gofundme page. Davison then teamed with Marc VandeWettering, the director of basketball operations for the men’s team, to start the process.

“We didn’t have to worry about it,” Joe Hedstrom said. “All we had to do was provide a bio and picture. That was it.”

Hedstrom played in only six games this past season before undergoing season-ending knee surgery. Still, he had a front-row seat to see how the Badgers overcame myriad of obstacles, including the tragic auto accident involving assistant Howard Moore and his family, to win a share of the Big Ten regular-season title.

“It is just crazy that all this has happened,” Hedstrom said. “But as I reflect on the year, it has been the hardest but also the most transforming year of my life…

“God teaches a lot of lessons in hard times. We had a really good group of guys that came together.

“I am blessed and life is good. God has been there for me and for my family.”

THANK YOU: Subscribers’ support makes this work possible. Help us share the knowledge by buying a gift subscription.