Facing his challenge with a lift
by Joel Danoy
Apr 19, 2013 | 4798 views | 4 4 comments | 50 50 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sharing his story
Pictures from his youth play on the screen behind  Doug Nielson as talks at a Tracy Hospital Foundation meeting at Sutter Tracy Hospital on Tuesday, April 16 about the benefits of patient lifts for the hospital.  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
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From a young age, Douglas Nielsen did everything with his hands.

The avid piano player soon graduated to disassembling car engines with his father.

As a student-athlete at West High, Nielson was a pole-vaulter, a wrestler and a swimmer — complementary activities to his advanced math and science classes before his graduation in 2003.

On Tuesday, April 16, the 28-year-old spoke to more than 75 people at a Tracy Hospital Foundation meeting about the dramatic changes he’s endured since a severing his spinal cord in a November 2003 car crash in Tracy.

Nielsen is paralyzed from his shoulders down and has limited use of his hands and arms.

He was the passenger in the vehicle of an alleged drunken driver, but he wasn’t drinking himself at the time of the crash.

“My friends had moved on, and had done other things, and I knew I wasn’t going to college,” Nielsen said. “I had to face life, and it was really hard. To know that whatever I thought life was going to be, wasn’t what it was going to be.”

During the years after his crash, Nielsen was gradually weaned off ventilator dependency and regained the ability to speak and interact with people again.

In between his stories of fishing and camping as a child, Nielson’s sense of humor and personality seemed to captivate the room.

Nielson acknowledged that his situation “is something that happened to me, and now I have to deal with it.”

The recent installation of an overhead safety patient lift in his home has dramatically improved his living conditions and care, according to Nielson.

He first used the lift as a patient at Sutter Tracy Community Hospital.

The apparatus is a four-point structure set up over a bed. A bar and winch move side to side along a track supporting a body sling, in which the patient rests. The winch can pick up the patient so nurses are able to change bedding, roll the patient in bed or put him or her in a wheelchair.

Safety for patients is greatly increased, as it is for nurses who don’t have to strain to move them.

“Before I had it, I was forced to have one person who would lift me up and put me in bed, but they had to be strong enough,” he said. “When I got my ceiling lift, … I can now go out with my friends, and when we get back they can put me in my bed and I don’t have to worry about them dropping me.”

Such independence, coupled with the reduced fear of being hurt while moving, are reasons the Hospital Foundation is raising $100,000 to begin putting lifts in every patient room in the hospital, according to Stuart Rogoff, executive director of the foundation.

He said the hospital will match the foundation’s monetary goal if it is met by Dec. 31. The entire project is expected to cost between $800,000 and $1 million.

Dr. Sunil Patel, the chief of medical staff at Sutter Tracy, said patients who use the overhead lift can “experience increase in their attitude, and it makes you happier.”

Patel is also Nielson’s primary doctor.

“If you are in one position you can get sores, so being lifted in and out of bed and into a chair will improve a patient’s mobility,” he said. “Personal quality (of life) will improve, safety will improve and his medical condition, physically and mentally, will improve.”

For information on how to make a donation to the Tracy Hospital Foundation, call 832-6052.

• Contact Joel Danoy at 830-4229 or jdanoy@tracypress.com.
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April 23, 2013
Ok well that was weird. There were 3 comments here and mine was going to be the 4th, but now it is gone. Briefly it said that Mr. Nielson was reckless and a heavy partier which may or may not have been true. Either way, his paralyses has changed him in ways most of us could not comprehend.
April 23, 2013
I really hope the hospital gets the founding for is this but really is guy????! Im sure they could of found someone better for all this. and for those of you that don't know the rest of mr nielsens story as to him becoming paralyzed i will fill you in besides him driving around Tracy in his red sports car at high rates of speeds at night running red lights or trying to drag race every car at every red light he was also knowing for his partying ways and had been arrested with another friend just weeks before his accident for stealing or trying to steal a couple hundred in alcohol from a local store.... A once again I hope the hospital gets the founding it needs but pick better speaker
April 22, 2013
Mr. Nielson~

Thank you for sharing your story. 25 years ago my brother was also paralyzed from the shoulders down with little use of his hands. The 1st year was such a struggle for him as I might conclude it was for you as well.

I can appreciate all your struggles as a result of watching my brother go through them. There are so many issues that those who can walk cannot even begin to understand.

I am so glad that you were able to get a lift. One more thing to help you in your independence. I salute your courage and wish for you sunnier days.
April 22, 2013
Stories like this are a simple reminder to all of us on whatever problems we are experiencing are insignificant compared to the pain of others. It should also remind us how quickly our lives can change or those that we love in an instant, and how we should never take what we have for granted.

I sincerely hope Mr. Nielsen that one day medical science will advance in our lifetime and you and many others will once again be able to walk. My best wishes and prayers to you sir that one day soon, you will.

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