It was supposed to be an unforgettable trip, but it turned unimaginably tragic.
As she and her husband were vacationing in Costa Rica over Memorial Day weekend, an Orange County nurse who oversees a spinal care unit was left paralyzed after a tree branch fell on her. Now, her family is trying to get Deanne Niedzeila home.
Niedzeila and her husband, Ken Niedzeila, were on their first excursion, which included a stop at the popular La Paz waterfall gardens. They were waiting to take another photo when Ken Niedzeila heard a whoosh and a bang as a 5-foot tree limb hit his wife.
“I looked over to my right and there’s Deanne, lying back unconscious,” Ken Niedzeila said through tears.
Ken Niedzeila began performing CPR while others stepped in to help. His wife slowly regained consciousness, blood coming out of her mouth.
Deanne Niedzeila suffered multiple injuries and survived a long, bumpy ride down to a San Jose hospital, where she underwent nine hours of surgery to straighten her spine. The lone bright spot, Ken Niedzeila said, is that the branch fell on his wife’s collarbone and not her head, which would have surely killed her.
He said his wife is talkative and understands what happened. The woman who for decades has taken care of others as a nurse and a mother doesn’t want any pity.
Instead, Ken Niedzeila said, she has accepted that she might be paralyzed.
“The word that she had and which we tell our kids often is ‘Suck it up.’ Sometimes you can’t help what happens to you in life and you can only deal with it,” Ken Niedzeila said, fighting back tears.
The family has already raised more than $100,000 to try to get Deanne Niedzeila back to California; that is the base cost of a direct flight with a full medical staff on board.
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