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Southern California nurse retires after accident leaves her paralyzed

A dedicated nurse from Southern California ends her career on a bittersweet note after an accident leaves her paralyzed from the chest down.

Deanne Niedziela was director of nursing at Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, overseeing the Spine and Neuroscience Institute and Acute Care Service. She has worked in healthcare for more than 30 years and dedicated her life to saving others.


She was on a dream vacation visiting waterfalls in Costa Rica, but it turned into tragedy after a tree branch fell and shattered her spinal cord.

After a nine-hour life-saving operation, Niedziela survived, but was left paralyzed from the chest down.

“This is a tragic accident that happened to me, but it is beyond my control,” Niedziela said. “I can’t turn back the calendar.”

Niedziela flew back home and spent months recovering in the same hospital she dedicated her career to.

Deanne Niedziela makes her final rounds at Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo as her colleagues say goodbye to her retirement on June 13, 2024. (KTLA)
Deanne Niedziela and her husband, Ken, are seen vacationing in Costa Rica.  (Niedziela family)
Deanne Niedziela and her husband, Ken, are seen vacationing in Costa Rica.  (Niedziela family)
Colleagues say goodbye to Deanne Niedziela at Mission Hospital on June 13, 2024, as she retires after an accident that left her paralyzed.  (KTLA)
Deanne Niedziela makes her final rounds at Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo as her colleagues say goodbye to her retirement on June 13, 2024. (KTLA)
Colleagues say goodbye to Deanne Niedziela at Mission Hospital on June 13, 2024, as she retires after an accident that left her paralyzed.  (KTLA)
Deanne Niedziela makes her final rounds at Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo as her colleagues say goodbye to her retirement on June 13, 2024. (KTLA)
Colleagues held an honorary retirement reception for Deanne Niedziela, director of nursing at Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, on June 13, 2024.  (KTLA)
Colleagues say goodbye to Deanne Niedziela at Mission Hospital on June 13, 2024, as she retires after an accident that left her paralyzed.  (KTLA)
Colleagues say goodbye to Deanne Niedziela at Mission Hospital on June 13, 2024, as she retires after an accident that left her paralyzed.  (KTLA)

“I really appreciate the caregivers who took care of me,” Niedziela said.

She said her colleagues’ care is fulfilling in many ways.

“The patients come and go, but it is the coworkers that make this workplace so special, and this is a special place at Mission Viejo Hospital,” she said.

On Friday, Niedziela was surrounded by her colleagues at the hospital for an honorary farewell.

Colleagues said Niedziela has always been a guiding light for others and continues to be so after decades working in the industry.

“To have cared for patients, led the Spine Institute and participated as a patient is really just an extraordinary triumph of courage and strength,” said Cherri Fox, director of nursing and colleague of Niedziela.

Niedziela will now shift her focus to the next chapter of her life as she works to regain her independence.

“Nobody gets to have a (farewell) reception in the lobby, so for them to be able to do that and have such a special reception for me, I just know that my colleagues are just great people,” Niedziela said.

As she makes her final rounds at the hospital, she reflects on the time she spent there and remembers all the happy memories of a rewarding career she loved.

“I am so blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life,” Niedziela said through tears.

A GoFundMe page to help Niedziela cover medical expenses and costs to make her home ADA compliant can be found here.

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