MORRIS – Mitch Nystedt, a former Morris Community High School math teacher and wrestling and football coach, and his wife Wendy, didn’t worry too much when Mitch went in for surgery last June to have a tiny nodule removed from his thyroid gland.
The family has known severe illness. Wendy, a Walnut Trails Elementary School third-grade teacher in Minooka, is a cancer survivor.
She said this procedure didn’t seem like a risky one. Just something that needed to be done.
Mitch, principal of Sandwich High School, had gone in for a few tests one day last spring for “not feeling right,” as his wife said.
There was a history of heart disease in his family, and he wanted to make sure everything was alright. The tests showed the thyroid nodule, and doctors said it should come out.
“He didn’t have any symptoms,” Wendy said. “They just happened upon it by accident. It [his thyroid] was only working at about 5 percent.”
The one surgery turned into two in a 24-hour period, and during one of them, Wendy said her husband suffered a massive stroke.
Mitch was kept heavily sedated for a couple of weeks, and a piece of his skull was removed because of the swelling in the left side of his brain.
There was a lot of damage. The entire right side of his body was paralyzed. He was placed on a ventilator in June, and had to stay on the breathing machine through September, so he couldn’t talk.
Being left-handed, he tried to communicate by writing, but he found he couldn’t even form the letters.
Once the ventilator tube was taken out and Mitch was in rehab, he began several therapies, including speech therapy.
“He could speak,” Wendy said, “but he struggled with aphasia and couldn’t find the right words.”
Mitch is still in therapy in an Oswego nursing and rehabilitation center and is slowly getting better. With the use of a cane, he is able to walk 164 feet.
“We’re very proud of his accomplishments,” Wendy said. “He said the kids and I are his pride and the reason he’s working so hard to get better.”
The Nystedts have three children – Haley, 15; Molly, 13; and Trevor, 9. They live in Morris and go to Morris Community High School and Saratoga School.
Several of the family’s friends, including Dave and Kelly Auwerda, both Morris teachers, are organizing the Mitch Madness fundraisers to help the family refit the house handicapped-accessible.
Ramps must be built, doorways widened, the carpet removed, bathrooms and the kitchen made accessible, and more.
“Mitch has the heart of a giant,” Kelly said. “He’s been there for our celebrations and for our grief. He’s educated and coached many kids in this community. ... I know how giving and generous people in this community are.”
Other organizers of the events include Pam Simpson, Doug Weber, Bonnie Garling, Jim and Kim Smith, Jim Zackavec, Anne McDonnell and Judy Stemen.
The Mitch Nystedt Benefits
• March 15 — 5 to 10 p.m. (dinner is 5 to 8 p.m.) at the Morris VFW. Mitch Madness Benefit Dinner. Full spaghetti dinner with bread, salad, cake and cash bar. Take-outs available. Music by DJ Leo. Live auction, raffle for a John Deere X300 lawn tractor with 42” deck. $15 adult, $10 children.
• June 27, time TBA. Clayton’s Tap Mitch Madness Benefit. The band is The Clients. Raffle for the lawn tractor will be drawn.
• Donations: May be mailed to The Mitch Nystedt Benefit Fund, 901 Shabbona St., Morris, IL 60450
Know more: For more information visit djauwerda.wix.com/mitchmadness2014 or www.facebook.com/groups/mitchmadness