Longtime local happy to be home after health ordeal kept him on Front Range
John Sena’s roots run deep in Routt County, so after spending a year and a half away on the Front Range because of health issues, the longtime Steamboat Springs resident was thrilled to get back home a few weeks ago.
“It took a long time to get back; there was a lot of rehabbing and stuff, so it’s good to be back home,” Sena said from his room in the Doak Walker Neighborhood, which is the skilled nursing portion of the Casey’s Pond senior living apartments.
Sena’s return comes after a journey that began when he was flown to Denver in July 2019 with life-threatening health issues.
He landed at the UCHealth Anschutz Medical Campus, where he spent three weeks in the intensive care unit as his kidneys began to shut down, and his lungs started to fail. Even after his condition improved, he was hospitalized for more than two months.
“That first five days, he was incubated, and they were doing dialysis 24 hours a day. … He was not even conscious, and he was really close to not making it,” Sena’s niece Jeannie Patterson said. “They did an amazing job, and modern medicine is amazing.”
In September, Sena was moved to the Summit Rehabilitation and Care Community in Aurora to recover, and he set a goal to get back to Steamboat Springs as soon as possible.
To do that, Sena would need to regain his strength after his ordeal, and he still required dialysis. Doctors at Anschutz decided Sena’s troubles were caused by vasculitis, an inflammation of the blood vessels that happens when the body’s immune system attacks the blood vessels by mistake.
Despite the dire circumstances he faced when he arrived at the hospital, Sena was able to battle back, but his road to recovery was not always easy. He was able to get off of dialysis while at rehabilitation center, but the restrictions brought on by COVID-19 would keep Sena there.
Sena actually survived a bout with COVID-19, a disease that claimed more than 6,591 lives in Colorado. But through it all, Sena never lost sight on his ultimate goal to return to Steamboat.
The lifelong Yampa Valley resident was born in Mount Harris in 1947 and was the youngest of 12 children. His family moved from the coal mining town, located about 19 miles west, to Steamboat in 1958 after the mine was closed down, and everything, including homes, was auctioned off. He went to school in Steamboat, drove plow trucks for the Colorado Department of Transportation on Loveland Pass and worked at Boggs Hardware for 25 years before the Lincoln Avenue fixture closed in 2003 after 60 years in Steamboat. Sena also worked at Walmart in Steamboat for more than a decade.
Patterson said Sena was supported by family and friends during his time recovering. She said he has a ton of nieces and nephews in the Denver area that offered him support, and he also got lots of encouragement from his Steamboat Springs family.
That included Patterson and her husband Andy Hartman; her sister Glenda Rees, husband Robert and son Marcus; and close family friend Johrene Story and her husband, Dan, as well as their children.
Patterson said her uncle also got a boost from her cousin, Kelly Spenser Kaminsk, who lives in Utah, and her children, who are also very close to Sena.
Hartman said he has already noticed Sena’s improved attitude since returning to Steamboat and said he is looking forward to the day when the two men can go out to lunch the way they did before Sena’s latest round of health issues and COVID-19.
Patterson said her uncle is in good spirits and eager to see his friends and family at Casey’s Pond.
“I know he is looking forward to having people come visit him or even being able to be out. Maybe even going out for lunch once in a while, and that kind of thing,” Patterson said. “He was always driven to make it back to Routt County, back to where his heart is. He loves Steamboat.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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