Nov. 20, 2006

James Nieman recovering from explosion

By Cullen Schultz
Staff Writer

Money for hospital bills received from the Knights of Columbus was a blessing for James Nieman following a freak accident last year.

A benefit took place Sept. 23 at the Delano American Legion, and was considered a success, giving Nieman much-needed money for his hospital bills.

Hosted by the Knights of Columbus and the Knights of Columbus Ladies Auxiliary, there were three events to raise money; a cash drawing, silent auction, and a pork chop dinner.

Nieman suffered severe burns in the accident in March 2005. He was working on a chainsaw when a propane heater near him exploded, causing severe burns to his arms, face, and hands.

To explain the accident, an explosion investigator was sent to figure out why the propane heater exploded. The investigator’s research was inconclusive, and didn’t find the reason why the explosion took place.

“I know I am lucky to be alive,” Nieman said.

The investigator told Nieman the only reason he survived was because he was so close to explosion.

He also explained the explosion was like a tiny nuclear explosion with the air moving outward, then back inward. Since Nieman was so close to the blast, the air passed around him and didn’t go through him. If the blast wave would have gone through Nieman, it would have killed him.

“If it would have passed through me, it would have treated my body like an accordion,” Nieman said.

After the explosion, he spent 15 days at Hennepin County Medical Center Burn Unit recovering from his injuries, and has had numerous surgeries to fix the burned parts of his body.

“The nurses told me it would take about two years to recover,” Nieman said.

The road to recovery hasn’t gone as smoothly as Nieman would like. He has had setbacks with his hands, receiving numerous pairs of gloves that didn’t fit him, and hindered his recovery. The gloves are supposed to be tight, so his skin heels properly, but he received gloves that were loose, causing bumps on his hands.

“I have had to order the gloves four times, and it costs a lot of money,” Nieman said.

The bumps on his hands will require additional surgery, because if he doesn’t get them fixed, the chances of infection rise dramatically.

Nieman isn’t letting himself get down about his situation.

“I am moving on,” he said.

Since the accident, Nieman has been unable to work, and lost his job of 25 years at Advance Machine. Now, he has plans of working again in the near future, hoping to get his commercial driver’s license.

“It’s terrible not working,” Nieman said.

With the help of the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of Columbus Ladies Auxiliary, and the donations of so many, Nieman is getting healthier – and a second start in life.

“Your health is the most important thing,” Nieman said.

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