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A life forever altered: A Vermillion man is literally trying to get back on his feet

Mike Frandrup is pictured with his family. From left to right are Sadie, Genean and Dean. On May 21, Frandrup felt a burning sensation in his leg. That evening, he went to the emergency room. Less than 48 hours later he emerged from seven hours of spinal surgery to find that he was paralyzed from the waist down.

While working Monday, May 21, in Farmington, Mike Frandrup felt a burning sensation in his leg.

Less than 48 hours later, he was enduring seven hours of surgery to his spine. When he woke up, he was paralyzed from the waist down and life hasn't been the same since.

It turns out a few veins in his spinal column had burst and bled. Doctors went in and did what they could, but they've given him just a zero to five percent chance of walking again.

Frandrup, a 1997 graduate of Hastings High School, now spends most of his days on a bed in his mother's living room in Vermillion, watching television and competing against his son on the PlayStation. Nowadays, just a simple trip to St. Paul to visit the doctor is real cause for excitement for him and his wife, Genean.

The family of four had been living in Farmington for years as Frandrup worked in the plumbing and heating business, including the past year with Farmington Plumbing and Heating. After the incident occurred, the family moved in with Frandrup's mother, and they are in the process of selling their home in Farmington.

This weekend, they will move into his grandfather's old house in Vermillion, where relatives have been scurrying about lately. They've made the home handicap accessible and have done considerable work to make it as hospitable as possible for someone who gets around with a wheelchair.

Since the incident, acts of kindness like his relatives fixing up that house have almost become commonplace, leading Frandrup to have a greater appreciation of the life he took for granted.

"If there's one thing this whole ordeal has taught me, it's that you focus on the good in people," he said. "So many people get angry in traffic. You get in that negative attitude in your day-to-day life. (Something like this) really does show you what good people have in their hearts."

Just after the incident, and as word spread about his condition, Farmington Plumbing sent a note out to their customers, asking for donations and help. Money came in from complete strangers, and a church in Lakeville stepped forward with a donation, too.

The whole thing has absolutely humbled Frandrup.

"I wish people could see the things I do," he said.

Throughout it all, it is his family that has done most of the heavy lifting, Frandrup said.

"We're really thankful to have the family we do," he said. "It is amazing, the way everybody is willing to rally around you."

Seeing what they have done for him has made him tackle his physical therapy.

"I've caused a lot of work for everybody else," he said. "I make I sure I put in the same amount of work that everybody else is for me and my family."

While his prognosis of walking about with his own two legs isn't real optimistic, Frandrup remains committed to becoming one of the five percent that can beat this and move around again. He doesn't want this to be permanent.

"I don't think of it that way," he said. "That's the attitude you have to have ..."

"Or else it would be," Genean said.

The couple has two children, 17-year-old Sadie, a senior at Farmington High School, and Dean, a 7-year-old who will be in the Hastings school district this fall.

The incident has been a change for everyone.

"It's a tough adjustment, but I'm very happy that it wasn't worse," Genean said. "I still have him here, and that's all that matters. This will get easier as he learns new things."

In the meantime, the Frandrups hope to get a simple message out to their friends and to their family: "Thank you, to everybody," Genean said. "We are very thankful and we want everybody to know that. You can't express it enough."

The procedure

By the evening of May 21, Frandrup's leg had gone numb and he couldn't walk. That's when he rushed to the emergency room. He was admitted and eventually an MRI was done on his back. There were tests, a general diagnosis of a deformation related to the veins in his spinal column, and surgery was planned for the next day.

Doctors removed the backs of seven of his vertebrae so that they could get inside his spinal column. They later found the burst vessels and fixed them. It was the pressure from that blood that caused his paralysis.

The longterm prognosis of paralysis is something Frandrup was not prepared for.

"I went into surgery thinking I'd wake up the next day and my legs would be back to the way they were," Frandrup said. "I wasn't expecting this."

He stayed in the hospital for about 10 days, then went to the Sister Kenny Institute for rehabilitation. On July 3, he moved to his mother's home.

Since then, he has been able to gain some movement back in his left ankle, but that's about the extent of the progress.

"It's kind of like having anchors instead of legs," he said.

This isn't Frandrup's first run-in with tragedy or sadness. He survived testicular cancer six years and, when he was just 12 years old, his father passed away.

"It hasn't been a smooth road, but it has been a good road, overall," he said.

The benefit

A benefit is planned for Mike and Genean Frandrup. It is set to begin at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, at the Stein Haus in Vermillion.

There will be a silent auction and a live auction. There is a $10 admission fee, which includes food and beverage.

Anyone interested in donating items for the benefit can drop them off at the Stein Haus parking lot from 4 to 7 p.m. on Aug. 7 and from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Aug. 11.

For more information on the benefit, call Donna Wagner at 651-437-3855.

In addition, a fund has been established in his name at the Vermillion State Bank.