Orange County nurse home after suffering 'near fatal' injury in Costa Rica

A Mission Viejo nurse who suffered a near fatal spinal cord injury while on vacation in Costa Rica has returned home for treatment at the same hospital where she works.

Deanne Niedziela, executive director of nursing at Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, was on a trip with her husband Ken over Memorial Day weekend when she was struck by a falling tree branch, according to a GoFundMe page set up by family and friends.

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Ken described the incident in agonizing detail.

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Deanne Niedziela / GoFundMe

"Deanne is about 3 stone steps from the bottom and me 2 or 3 behind her. So close that if I put one foot forward and stretch my arm, I could touch her. Seconds pass. Suddenly, ‘CRACK!’…  A whitish blur passes in front of my eyes. I hear ‘WOOSH!’ and then a thud. What was that? I look down and see Deanne on her back," Ken said.

"I kneel next to her. ‘Deanne!’ She’s unconscious. I don’t see any signs of breathing. I perform mouth-to-mouth two or three times. I don’t think about chest compressions. I wait a few seconds. Her eyes open. Her mouth widens. Blood is pooling in her mouth. I raise her head to clear the blood. She’s breathing. She’s moaning. I shout toward the upper platform, ‘Get help! Call an ambulance!’"

Niedziela has undergone surgery but remains paralyzed. She will be treated over the next few weeks at the hospital before she begins rehab.