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California nurse’s Costa Rica ‘trip of lifetime’ nearly turns deadly when falling branch causes spine injury

A California nurse suffered spinal damage while vacationing in Costa Rica after being struck by a “large tree limb [that] cracked and fell from maybe 100 feet high,” her husband says. 

Deanne Niedzela, executive director of nursing at Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, was injured Sunday while on a group tour at the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, according to a Facebook post from her husband Ken. 

“I was just a few feet behind her and somehow wasn’t hit,” he wrote earlier this week. “Deanne is in surgery now in San Jose, Costa Rica, due to spinal damage.” 

An update from Ken Niedzela on a GoFundMe page later said Deanne is “off supplemental oxygen, she’s alert and talking, and she began physical therapy,” yet there is “Still no feeling from the chest down, unfortunately, but any progress will come slowly.” 

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California nurse Deanne Niedziela injured in Costa Rica

Ken Niedziela says the photo, left, was taken just before the tree branch, right, fell on his wife Deanne in Costa Rica. (Courtesy Ken Niedziela)

“We don’t know what the future holds for Deanne Niedziela’s health, but we do know that she won’t fly back to Southern California on Friday. Saturday is a possibility,” the page also said.  

“I asked Deanne what she wanted to say to everyone reading this. Her response: ‘Thank everyone for having me in their prayers. Your thoughts are felt all the way to Costa Rica,’” it added. “Lastly, you might wonder about Deanne’s state of mind. Her view: ‘It is what it is. Suck it up.’ That’s what we have always told our kids… In other words, deal with the situation and persevere.” 

The GoFundMe page is trying to raise money to airlift Deanne back to the United States for treatment at the hospital where she works. 

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Deanne Niedziela and Ken Niedziela pose for photo in Costa Rica

Ken Niedziela told Fox News Digital that he and his wife Deanne arrived in Costa Rica on Friday, two days before her injury. (Courtesy Ken Niedziela)

Providence Mission Hospital, in a statement obtained by Fox News Digital, said, “We are working with the Niedziela family to bring Deanne home to Mission Hospital as soon as she is stable and able to travel.  

“The medical air transport alone is estimated to be up to $100,000,” it continued. “We know Deanne will have additional expenses; our current focus is bringing Deanne home to Mission Hospital for a comprehensive workup by our highly skilled team of neurosurgeons and specialists.” 

The hospital described Niedziela as “A vital member of Mission’s leadership team” who “oversees the Spine & Neuroscience Institute, Acute Care Services and has served our Mission family in various roles over the past 30 years, including Interim Chief Nursing Officer, Director Laguna Beach campus, Critical Care Manager, and charge nurse.” 

California nurse injured during Costa Rica vacation

A photo Ken Niedziela says was taken during the first part of the La Paz Waterfall Gardens tour. (Courtesy Ken Niedziela)

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Jennifer Cord, chief nursing officer at the hospital, said “It is so tragic that this trip of [a] lifetime suddenly turned into a life-threatening medical emergency. 

“We thank all the caregivers and physicians who are caring for Deanne in Costa Rica and are eager to welcome her home when she’s able to travel safely,” she added. 

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