Terry and Tim Nies shared their family’s experiences with COVID-19.

Terry and Tim Nies shared their family’s experiences with COVID-19.

Declared dead Nov. 16, an Aitkin man came back to battle COVID-19 and is now home.

Tim Nies said he has many missing pieces in his memory since Nov. 2 when he tested positive for the virus. Tim, brother Terry, and sister Tena Burgstaler shared the family’s experiences with the Aitkin Age.

Tim was not vaccinated against COVID-19. “I am not anti-vaccine,” he said, “I am against mandating them. And I don’t usually get sick.”

But sick he did get. On Nov. 9, he had a monoclonal antibody infusion which failed to help, possibly because it hadn’t been done early enough.

Tim was taken to Riverwood Healthcare Center in Aitkin on Nov. 16 with shortness of breath. There, he had a heart attack and was on a Lucas machine for 40 minutes before being declared dead.

“I was so shocked I couldn’t believe it,” said Terry. “I would give up every material thing I have just to get my brother back to normal.”

Within minutes, Tim began breathing on his own. He was sedated and put on a ventilator. On IVs, his kidneys were failing and he was on the verge of needing dialysis. On Nov. 25, he was transferred by ambulance to St. Mary’s in Duluth.

“I remember being sent to St. Mary’s,” said Tim, “but I thought they airlifted me. My legs hurt so bad.”

His legs hurt because he had a blood clot in his left calf and a bleed that couldn’t be stopped even through nightly blood transfusions. Doctors at St. Mary’s had to perform surgery to stop the leaking veins.

To make matters worse, Tim’s dad, Al, died on Dec. 3 but family members weren’t exactly sure how to tell Tim at that time.

From St. Mary’s, Tim was transferred to Miller Dwan for rehabilitation. Improvement came slowly and the kidneys began to work again. It was during rehab that Tim was informed of his dad’s death. Funeral services for Al were postponed to spring so Tim could be there.

“Tim is now known around town as ‘the miracle man,’” said Tena. “He had no prior major health concerns. Several family members had COVID-19 at the same time, but Tim was hit the hardest.”

Tim was able to come home on Christmas Eve to his overjoyed family.


This COVID-19 survivor now goes to physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. He said he is weak and his left arm doesn’t work properly. He suffers from vertigo and short term memory loss.

The ranching operation run by Tim and Terry will have to be downsized, both said.

“Tim’s the cattle guy and I’m the mechanic,” said Terry, who admitted he cannot keep up with caring for 180 head of beef cattle, many of whom will be calving soon.

“We’re going to have to sell 100 or more,” said Tim.

At this time, Tim cannot drive; he’s to take care not to fall and must stay warm. “I have good days and bad days,” he noted.

This experience has given the family much to consider. Terry said he thinks there should be more focus by health officials on treatment, rather than vaccine, in light of the increasing number of people getting COVID-19.

“I appreciate the excellent care from the medical staffs at Riverwood Healthcare, St. Mary’s-Essentia and Miller Dwan,” Tim said, “as well as the cards and gifts, meals delivered, prayer support and financial support.”

Those who wish to help Tim with medical expenses may give donations at Members Cooperative Credit Union in Aitkin.

Tim said there is one thing he learned.

“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today!” he said.

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