June 12, 2023

Nurse Paralyzed on Costa Rican Vacation Stranded Due To Insurance Issues

Nurse Paralyzed on Costa Rican Vacation Stranded Due To Insurance Issues

Image: Deanna and Ken Niedziela 

Deanne Niedziela, executive director of nursing at Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, was enjoying a much-needed Costa Rican vacation with her husband Ken when a freak accident occurred leaving her with a devastating and near-fatal spinal cord injury. 

During a day trip to La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park, a five-foot tree limb broke off and came crashing down onto Deanne. "All of a sudden I heard a huge crash," said Ken. "It was like a bolt of thunder or thunderclap."

Ken as well as several locals and other tourists rushed to Deanne’s aid and tried to stabilize her. Unfortunately, she had to wait many hours before she was able to be successfully transported to a hospital.

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"She really has no sensation from the chest down," Ken said. "She has limited movement of her arms. No finger strength to speak of.” 

Interestingly, Deanna runs the Spine and Neuroscience Institute at Mission Hospital. She has worked in a variety of positions including Interim CNO, Director Laguna Beach campus, Critical Care Manager, and Charge nurse. 

After a nine-hour surgery, her prognosis remains unknown but her husband has been in contact with staff on the unit in hopes of transporting her to Mission. 

Image: Deanna and Ken Niedziela 

Insurance Doesn't Cover Medical Air Transport

Unfortunately, insurance does not cover medical air transport and it can cost upwards of $100,000. 

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

According to a GoFundMe that has been set up for Deanne, she is currently off of supplemental oxygen, alert, and talking, with plans to start physical therapy. Unfortunately, she still does not have any feeling from the chest down. 

Image: Deanne Niedziela

Deanne remains hospitalized at Hospital Metropolitano Lindora. Despite the excellent care she is receiving, Ken and her family remain focused on getting her strong enough to return to the U.S. for rehabilitation and further evaluation. 

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