February 4, 2010

Faith, family, friends got them through

Faith, family, friends got them through
Firefighters, wives reflect on accident
By STU MERRY

You are never alone.
On Dec. 17, Doug and Barb Steinmetz and Ryan and Hilary Nelson had their world turned upside down. Doug and Ryan, along with fellow firefighters Ted Seidler and Ben Berntson, were involved in a serious accident when a semi tanker struck the fire and rescue truck they were in. Fortunately, Ted and Ben suffered minor injuries, were treated and released. But for Doug and Ryan, the accident proved to be much worse. It was life threatening.
But the four have been lifted up and have a new perspective about “community.” The four found out they are never alone.
The abundance of words of support, prayers and acts of kindness were beyond belief, Hilary said. Those acts helped the four through some trying times as Doug and Ryan recovered from their injuries.
“Just everyone and their great comments … sometimes you felt like you wanted to give up, but with everyone’s support you knew they would be fine … family, friends, workers, strangers – everyone had a lot to do it,” Hilary said.
Of the outpouring of support, Ryan said the whole experience has been unbelievable.
“I can’t even describe the feeling when you have cards coming in from people you don’t know, showing their support,” he said. “(And) it’s encouraging to know you are part of a community that operates like this … it’s very nice to know you are part of something like that.”
For Doug and Barb, who spent the first weeks of his hospital stay in Minneapolis, the saving grace began with family.
“Coming and being there, that was the best for me,” Barb said. “Family is huge … it made it a lot easier.”
That “comfort” came spiritually and faith-wise, as well. There was a church across the street from the hospital, which Barb visited while in Minneapolis. Some members of the congregation came to visit. Staff from the Camp of the Cross who live in the Twin Cities even came.
“We received so many calls,” Barb said. “Young people offered to bring supper and presents and to sit with us on Christmas Eve day. It was really special.”
Doug and Ryan were also there for each other. Ryan said the key was to stay positive in time of doubt. He only had to hear about Doug to get that bad karma out of his head.
“I know that’s one thing that made me feel better … Doug stayed positive and thoroughly enjoyed life and friends,” Ryan said. “Knowing that Doug is going to fight it – that was one way I was able to cope.”
Ryan, a South Dakota native, has been with the department since October 2007 – about a year after arriving in Garrison to be the assistant manager at Fort Stevenson State Park.
Doug has been on the fire department less than a year, but had previous firefighting experience in Wyoming and Maddock, N.D.
 


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