Shriners Hospital gives new hope to local Fortuna boy

Heather Nyberg-Schlotzhauer

Beacon Correspondent

Hunter Nielsen is every other 9-year-old boy who is full of hope, humor, love, and endless energy for life. Hunter is additionally unique and strong as he suffers from pectus excavatum, also known as funnel chest. When his parents wanted to have a garage sale Hunter asked to have lemonade and baked good sales to help raise money for his medical needs.

Tim and Tiffany Nielsen who live in Fortuna are well known for their fun decorating on Halloween in the Clifton Road high traffic area for hundreds of trick or treaters. On Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., they will again draw a crowd to their driveway for a garage and bake sale for all ages at their home located at 3521 Clifton Way.

The Nielsens have been together for about 14 years after meeting at the Angelina for Jim's friends California Highway Patrol graduation. The couple did not wait long to become engaged and after asking Tiffany's father for her hand they were engaged after two months of dating. Tiffany's father was killed four days later in a logging accident.

Tiffany reflected on their first date.

"We always wanted to adopt and have biological children," she said. "We now have three adopted children. It was not in God's plan for us to have biological children because he already had the perfect three planned for us."

Hunter is the middle child of the three and was adopted at birth by the couple. The defect was not discovered until he was 2 weeks old which led to several medical procedures in his first six months of life. Once Hunter turned a year old he began to thrive, but during the past years growing pains have become a chronic issue for the young boy.

Due to the continued normal growth as a child Hunter's sternum began to grow deeper into his body pushing his heart toward his spine. This created difficulty with eating, swallowing, pain, and breathing. It was this chronic pain that led the Nielsen's to investigate options for their son. They discovered a trial at the Shriners Hospital and Hunter was the third child entered.

On March 18, Hunter had a magnet implanted, which was much more invasive than they had imagined. Hunter is healing well and will receive his alternating magnet vest to begin the process of pulling his sternum out. The magnetic mini-mover trial study will require monthly trips to Sacramento for the next 24 months while Hunter wears the vest.

Tiffany is amazed by the strength of her son and the Shriners.

"Shriners are fantastic and we are so appreciative of all they are doing for us," she said.

Gracie Nielsen is the oldest of the Nielsen family.

"My parents had me out of wed-lock because I was born in February and they did not get married until July," she joked.

Gracie was lovingly adopted out of the Foster Care System at the age of 9, now 13, by the Nielsens, who said they knew the second they met her that she was meant to be theirs.

Tiffany Nielsen teaches Foster Parent classes through College of the Redwoods and Tim Nielsen works at Costco in Eureka. Both are known for their positive outlooks and constant smiles. The couple also adopted 2-year-old Brady, now 7, who attends Ambrosini Elementary School.

The Nielsens came up with the garage sale idea to help offset the uncovered expenses of their son's treatment. Hunter added the lemonade stand and bake sale to try and help his parents out with his expenses.

If you would like to donate to the garage sale, bake sale, lemonade stand, or Hunter's fund you can contact the Nielsen's at 725-2580 or dropoff times Thursday or Friday night at 3521 Clifton Road after 5 p.m. Item's will also be accepted starting at 7 a.m. Saturday morning of the garage sale as they will be busy setting up looking forward to seeing the many friendly faces who will be visiting the event.

Photo by Heather Nyberg-Schlotzhauer/Beacon

Hunter Nielsen and his mother Tiffany Nielsen enjoy some special time together with friends. Hunter was recently fitted with a magnet to counter another magnet he will receive in the form of a vest to pull his sternum outward.