Nicole VanHeel

Update: It’s with heavy a heart that we share our beloved Nicole - a coworker, friend and family member to many of you - passed away on Sunday, November 25, from a pulmonary embolism, a complication to the stroke she suffered on duty in June. The days ahead will be difficult and please know that our family appreciates the support and love you have given to Nicole (and all of us).

Mass of Christian Burial celebrating the life of Nicole M. Van Heel, age 34 of St. Joseph and formerly of St. Cloud will be 11:00 a.m. on Friday, November 30, 2018 at Holy Spirit Catholic Church (2405 Walden Way) in St. Cloud. Nicole passed away on November 25, 2018 at the St. Cloud Hospital due to complications from a stroke she suffered while on duty. Reverend Thomas Knoblach will officiate. Burial will take place at the Assumption Cemetery in St. Cloud.

Visitation will be from 4:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. on Thursday and after 9:30 a.m. on Friday at the church. Arrangements were made by the Daniel Funeral Home, St. Cloud.

Nicole was born on April 10, 1984 in St. Cloud, Minnesota the daughter of Dale Van Heel and Michelle Miller. She was a 2002 graduate of St. Cloud Apollo High School and a 2006 graduate from the St. Cloud Technical and Community College with a degree in Paramedicine. She was employed by Gold Cross Ambulance as a Paramedic in St. Cloud since 2007. Nicole was also a Firefighter for the St. Augusta and later the St. Joseph Fire Departments and First Responder Instructor.

She spent her time on duty saving lives and her time off duty living life to the fullest.

Nicole is survived by her father, Dale Van Heel of St. Cloud; mother, Michelle (Suzie Scoles) Miller of St. Cloud; life partner, Jess Wold; grandmother, Dianne Miller of Waite Park; brothers, Chad (Kristin) of Otsego, Jacob (Samantha Robinson) of St. Cloud; step-brother, Nick (Diana Thompson) Regnier of St. Cloud; nephews, Chase, Max and Easton Van Heel and Jackson Regnier.

She was preceded in death by her grandparents, Lambert and Marcella Van Heel and Sylvester “Sy” Miller; and aunt, Melinda Miller.

Memorials are preferred in lieu of flowers.

Nicole’s family would like to express their sincere appreciation for the support and comfort from the Minnesota EMS Honor Guard and her Public Safety family.
On June 26th while Nicole was working at Goldcross in Litchfield she started to feel ill. She wasn't able to drive and had her girlfriend Jess pick her up, from there they went to the ER in St. Cloud. 

Upon arrival at the ER they preformed a CT scan and a MRI on Nicole. The CT results looked normal, but after receiving the MRI results, doctors confirmed that she had experienced multiple ischemic strokes. As we age our brains naturally shrink and with Nicole’s young age her brain had nowhere to swell which caused more pressure on it. On June 27th, Nicole underwent surgery having a tube placed in her brain to relieve the pressure and hopefully reduce the swelling.

The tube that was placed was working, however, due to the brain damage from the strokes in her cerebellum the swelling was now putting pressure on the part of the brain that controls vital functions. Nicole’s heart rate slowed to the 30s. On June 28th, Nicole underwent surgery again. The doctors had to remove a portion of her skull to help with the swelling. During this surgery there were complications and Nicole needed to receive four (4) units of blood due to extreme blood loss. Luckily, Nicole made it through this surgery.   

After her second surgery, she spent the next two weeks in the progressive ICU. It was a waiting game as everyone waited for Nicole to become more aware of her situation as well as her body to stabilize. When her heart rate and blood pressure finally normalized she was moved into the progressive medical unit for two days. 

On July 10th, Nicole was moved into the Rehab unit. In Rehab, Nicole spent time relearning to walk and worked on her balance. She also participated in speech therapy and worked on daily living skills. During all this therapy, Nicole was suffering from dizziness and nausea, but being the strong, independent person that she is she pushed herself so she could leave the hospital. After almost two weeks in the Rehab unit, Nicole was released to go home - a happy day for her and her family and friends!

Before she could return home though some adaptations needed to happen to her house so that she could perform everyday tasks. Now that she is home, Nicole is attending physical therapy three times a week, speech therapy once a week and occupational once a week; thanks to the help of friends and family who ensure she gets to and from them. She is currently getting a little better every day, but she has a long way to go. She is able to get around with the help of a walker and pushes herself to get stronger everyday. But most noticeably, after such a life-changing series of event that no one should ever have to experience, especially someone at the age of 34, her outlook on life is the same that it always has been and she’s determined to get back to “normal."

The future; we don't know what it holds. The doctors say that Nicole could possibly be walking by New Years, they can't say for sure but signs are looking good. Physically she is progressing and we can visibly see that everyday. Nicole's brain; this is the thing that stays a mystery. We can't say for sure when she will have full function back. She is able to talk and have conversations, but it is still unclear when or if she will be able to go back to work. We have faith that she will be back to her healthy, happy, hardworking, helping self.

If you know Nicole then you know that she is the first one to help others out whether as a friend, daughter, sister, sister-in-law, aunt, niece, cousin, co-worker, paramedic, handy-woman, or in some other role. And now she needs your help to help her out. If you are able to help financially, then please consider doing so. Any amount is appreciated and will be used to pay Nicole’s medical bills and daily living expenses. Nicole also appreciates any well-wish and prayers that will help her stay positive on her recovery journey!
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Nicole VanHeel 
Saint Joseph, MN