What began as a seemingly benign ear infection snowballed into weeks of unpaid time off and piles of medical bills for Richmond Township Fire Capt. Eric Schwind.
The 29-year-old has been out from work since late February after an undiagnosed infection partially paralyzed his face and hindered his ability to walk.
Friends have started a GoFundMe page to help Schwind make up for the missed shifts at the part-time fire department. As of Tuesday evening, the campaign had raised $7,390 of its $10,000 goal.
“It’s just amazing what people do,” said Schwind’s mother, Darlene Schwind.
About two months ago, Eric Schwind went to the doctor complaining of an ear infection, but as his symptoms worsened, a slight paralysis began to set in, and he struggled to walk.
He was admitted to the hospital Thursday for dizziness, and he was treated for what doctors believed to have been kidney failure from dehydration. By Tuesday, doctors gave Schwind the OK to return home.
“There for a while he was pretty down and depressed not knowing the answer and wondering what’s wrong,” Darlene Schwind said.
May 1 will mark the fire captain’s 10th year with the department, where he assumes the roles of a firefighter, paramedic and emergency medical services coordinator, Assistant Fire Chief Rod Feltner said.
“He’s a second-generation here. His dad was here for quite some time,” Feltner said.
It’s not typical for Eric Schwind to take time off, said his sister, Amy Schwind.
“Eric positively impacts the lives of all those he touches,” she said. “He loves what he does and has so much pride in serving the community. It has been hard to watch him go through all he has over the past few months.”
In Eric Schwind’s absence, colleagues have taken it upon themselves to pick up extra shifts and forward their pay to him.
With multiple sclerosis and other more aggressive diagnoses ruled out, Eric Schwind has been in somewhat lighter spirits, family members said. Doctors believe he should regain movement in his face.
“At least we got some answers,” Darlene Schwind said.