MOORHEAD — Shelly Swenson of Moorhead was just 56 when she died from COVID-19 after weeks of fighting it. It's a grim reminder of how unpredictable COVID-19 can be for some who get infected.

If you ask those who loved her most, Swenson was all about friends, family and shopping.

"Whether it was at a store, thrift store or somewhere else, she was always shopping for someone else," said her boyfriend, Kevin Campbell.

"She had a contagious laugh and play(ed) pranks on people any chance she got," said her daughter, Ashley Heule. "She was very social, spent time with family and friends. She hated being alone, and she wanted to be with people."

When Swenson was first diagnosed in late September, nobody expected the days of a downward spiral to come.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

"She had a cough, body aches and delivered a fever of 103," Heule said. "Within five days of being in the hospital, she was put on a ventilator."

After spending days at a Fargo hospital, Swenson, who had emphysema, kept getting hit harder and harder by the disease. She was eventually put on a ventilator, set to the highest setting.

"I know from experience as a registered nurse that patients that go on a ventilator don't make it, but more of them recently were coming off the ventilator, so that gave me hope," Heule said.

A ventilator on the highest setting still didn't work. As a last resort, Swenson was put on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine, or EMO, for her heart and lungs. She was taken to the University of Minnesota for her last chance of getting better.

"From there, it was a plateau and a downhill battle," Heule said.

When her family drove to the Twin Cities to say goodbye, Campbell said Heule actually pulled over to assist at the scene of an accident.

One month after going into the hospital, Swenson passed away from COVID-19 at the U of M. Campbell, a Clay County Commissioner, no longer looks at weekly public health coronavirus reports the same way he used to.

"I am not a proponent of shutting everything down; that is not what I am about," Campbell explained. "She was number 46 on the death list in Clay County. It hurt and hit home really hard."

Heule, with a toddler and another child on the way, already has plans to tell her children about her mom: a grandma of seven with two on the way.

She also became a champion for plasma donation since losing her mom. She says one plasma donation can save up to four lives.

Those seeking more information on how to donate plasma can visit Vitalant's web page or visit the webpage for the local Red Cross.