Sean Sweeney did what many guys do when it comes to their health: put off a routine procedure until something is terribly wrong.
He was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease, and had lost 20 pounds by fall 2007. The searing pain finally drove him to Parker Adventist Hospital and a CAT scan revealed 16 holes in his colon. Sweeney was becoming septic and was seriously ill. He underwent emergency surgery to remove his colon.
“I’d thought mind over matter would beat this. I was taking a few pills a day, but it got rapidly out of control,” he said.
To make matters worse – and much of the reason why he tried new diets, acupuncture and pills before seeing the doctor – the Highlands Ranch resident was transitioning into life as a new business owner, and he did not have insurance coverage for what would eventually add up to $50,000 in medical bills.
That’s when the Parker Adventist Hospital Foundation, an extension of the nonprofit medical center, decided to step in. The foundation covered his bills and the 43-year-old retired U.S. Marine Corps captain is feeling better and living an active life. On Nov. 10, to mark the five-year anniversary of the life-saving surgery, he started a journey to repay the favor.
Sweeney jogged from the new Centura facility in Castle Rock to Heritage Elementary School in Highlands Ranch where he serves as a parent-volunteer and runs a Friday morning fitness program for 60-100 kids. He then ran from the school to Parker Adventist Hospital, completing a 31-mile journey to raise money for the foundation to pay the favor forward to another recipient who lacks health coverage.
To this day, the married father of three children still doesn’t know who passed his name to the Parker Adventist Hospital Foundation, but says “whoever did it was an angel.”
Sweeney, a co-owner in a company that produces multiplayer online games, says he wishes he could write a check to pay the $50,000 back, but will raise what he can over the next year through various events.
“Sean’s passion for life and his desire to help others in need, serves as an inspiration to all of us,” said Lisa Sandoval, executive director of the hospital foundation. “Our foundation exists to nurture the health and wellness of our community and it's incredible stories like Sean's that inspire us in our work each and every day.”
Sweeney is also raising awareness about ulcerative colitis and offering his support to patients who are dealing with the uncomfortable symptoms.
“I want to inspire others who have had the surgery and let them know it’s not the end of the world,” he said. “I’ve been amazed at how the human body can bounce back.”