Homecoming ‘best therapy I could have,’ says Fred Frischknecht
Community turns out in force
By Suzanne Dean
MANTI—“We’re here. We’re home.”
That was Fred Frischknecht’s reply to the question, “How are you doing?” as relatives, friends and neighbors from throughout the county packed the Manti Senior Citizens Center Monday to welcome him home after nearly five months in the hospital.
From 5 p.m. when the event started until after 7 p.m. when it was supposed to end, a steady stream of people filed past his wheelchair, which had been set up in front of the dining area, to shake his hand, exchange hugs and offer support.
Many also dropped checks in a box at the front of the senior center.
People filled all the tables in the dining area, and all the chairs and sofas in the lounge. Kids sat on the floor. A few people spilled onto the sidewalk outside.
There was an almost continuous lineup for soup, bread and cookies, all donated.
Nobody was counting, but 200 to 300 people must have come though.
No entertainment had been planned, but Sam Blatter of Manti showed up with his guitar, gathered a group of children around him, and accompanied them as they sang patriotic and popular songs.
“This is the best hometown therapy I’ve had,” Fred said.
A lifelong resident of Manti, Fred worked for many years at Rasmussen Ace Hardware in Gunnison and later at Alvey Lumber in Manti.
Earlier this year, on May 17, his life changed dramatically when, while trimming a tree in his yard at 545 N. 300 West, he fell 12-14 feet.
Some neighbors, Gary and Tricia Cox, saw him up in the tree sawing off limbs as they left for a walk around the neighborhood. When they returned, they saw limbs scattered around on the ground, but at first didn’t see Fred. Then they noticed him flat on his back on the ground.
He was taken to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center (UVRMC) with a punctured lung and two crushed vertebrae, among other injuries.
Because he was having trouble breathing, he was in intensive care for a few days. Then he had surgery where seven of the 12 vertebrae between his waist and neck were fused, according to his daughter, Alicia Stevenson, who is an RN.
After the accident, he had no feeling from the middle of his chest to his feet. According to his brother, John Frischknecht, who is a doctor, his spinal cord is intact. But his spinal cord was seriously bruised, which can also cause paralysis.
In such situations, the paralysis sometimes diminishes over time, but the longer a person goes without having being able to feel his feet, the less chance there is of his regaining full function, his brother said.
Fred was in UVRMC two and a half months and in Gunnison Valley Hospital two more months. He had been home just one week prior to the gathering Monday.
His sister, Kristine Everitt, said he had health insurance. But his accident cut off his income. His wife, Shirley, also works, but she cut back her work schedule to be with him in the hospital.
Before Fred came home, a bathroom in his house was modified to create a roll-in shower, and doors around the house were taken down so he can get through the doorframes in his wheelchair.
One of the main goals of the gathering was to raise funds to build an attached garage onto his house so he can get from the house to his car without going outside, especially in the winter, Everitt said.
One of the people in the crowd was Fred’s niece, Tori Garbe, who came with her husband and two children.
“This is the biggest community come-together,” she said, “It’s unreal.”
Pam and Gaylin Thomas said they came because the Frischknechts are their friends. “We just love Fred and his sweet wife,” Pam said. “They were in our ward when we first moved back [to Manti] from back East. We’re so glad to have Fred back home.”
“The people in Sanpete County are the best people in the world,” said Steve Frischknecht, Fred’s brother and a former county commissioner. “When a crisis happens, they step right up to the plate,” not only with friendship and support, but financially, too.
“He has a long way to go,” Steve added, “but he’ll be OK.”
Donations may still be made to the Fred Frischknecht Donations account at Zions Bank.