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Benefit set for April 3

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STILL ON THE JOB — A benefit is planned for April 3 for Dean Grubstad, left who along with his wife, Theresa, owns the Red Leaf Cafe in New Richland. Dean remains on the job despite his battles with a rare bone infection. (Star Eagle photo by Jessica Lutgens)


By JESSICA LUTGENS

Staff Writer

When Dean Grubstad started experiencing soreness last fall, he assumed it was whiplash from a past accident. He did not expect it to lead to a three-week, life-changing hospital stay — and he wasn’t the only one who didn’t see it coming.

It was around Thanksgiving of 2015 when Dean’s symptoms surfaced. He went in to the doctor, who agreed that it was probably whiplash and put him on steroids. After three days, Dean began feeling better, but the fourth day was a different story.

“It was like I took a 180,” said Grubstad, who owns the Red Leaf Café in New Richland along with his wife, Theresa. “I couldn’t move my left arm, and I started having convulsions.”

He and Theresa then went to the Owatonna hospital. He was admitted and treated for two days for what doctors had thought was pneumonia after x-rays showed a mass that appeared to be on Dean’s lung. However, an MRI revealed that the fluid (mass) was actually located behind the lung, which changed things.

“He was rushed from the Owatonna hospital to Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis,” Theresa recalled.

Another MRI the day after arriving at Abbott Northwestern discovered a critical infection in Dean’s spine. A bone biopsy was then done, showing four different infections in the bone, including staph, strep and two others. 

“It was crazy,” said Dean. “We had never heard of anything like [a bone infection] before. Even the doctor hadn’t seen one.”

Treatment for such an infection can often include surgery, but due to the location of the infection, surgery for Dean meant attempting to go around his spinal cord — and a 95% chance of paralysis.

Thankfully, it didn’t look like surgery was going to be necessary. With the help of treatment, antibiotics and close monitoring, the infection was no longer life-threatening. However, such infections eat away at the bone marrow, and eventually can lead to the bone dying altogether; and for Dean, severe nerve damage had already been done.

“My right hand is basically deteriorating,” he explained. “I’ve lost use of two of the fingers, and I’m losing feeling in the other three.”

Currently, Dean is recovering — he was downgraded on March 14 from a severe to a moderate infection and only has to take antibiotics for another six weeks, but he still has to see a spine specialist, and the prognosis is uncertain. The cause of the infection is a mystery, as well.

“I’ll probably never know what caused it,” Dean said. “We don’t really know what’s going to happen. I’m hoping to get some use back in my right hand, but I know it’ll never be 100%.”

Being the owners of New Richland’s only café, the Grubstads have devoted a lot of time and effort into the town over the last few years. 

“Buying the Red Leaf was one of the best moves we ever made,” Theresa said.

“We were going to buy the café in Hartland,” Dean added. “All we had left to do was sign the papers when the Lunchbox became available.”

Since Dean and Theresa live in New Richland, it made sense to take over the former Lunchbox instead of Hartland.

“We just didn’t want to see this place go,” said Theresa.

And the people of New Richland have expressed their appreciation by coming together and supporting Dean and his family during this incredibly difficult and trying time in their lives.

“The community has been so great,” Theresa said. “Without them, and the employees here [at Red Leaf], I don’t know what we would have done.”

Even a recent birthday party for Dean on March 5 drew in over 50 guests, and Dean and Theresa’s gratitude for the community’s response is plain to see.

“The support we’ve received has been amazing,” said Dean. “I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

A benefit has been organized to help with Dean’s medical costs through the long recovery ahead of him. On Sunday, April 3 from 7 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at New Richland City Hall, the Lions Club will host a pancake breakfast and silent auction. If you would like to donate an item or basket for the silent auction, contact Tina Zimmerman at (507) 319-8297 or Pam Goehring, (507) 461-9253.

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