For the first time, the Allina paramedic who nearly died on the job is speaking exclusively with Fox 9 News about the head-on collision that killed one woman and severely injured two first responders.
On Jan. 18, Brian Nagel suffered a broken neck, a fractured skull, a head injury and doctors had to reconstruct his eye. Just one month later, he left the hospital on his sister's birthday -- and his recovery is impressive.
"I take about 10 medications a day," Nagel told Fox 9 News.
Although Nagel may be back at home, he still has weeks of healing ahead of him -- but his attitude has him exploring the road to recovery with a smile.
"I'm glad where I am right now," he said. "I'm grateful."
He has already come a long way from being in a coma at North Memorial Medical Center.
"I don't remember anything as far as the actual incident," Nagel admitted. "I thought I was in the ambulance and woke up in the ICU six days, seven days later."
Nagel was working with a patient in the back of the ambulance when it collided head-on with an SUV near Buffalo, Minn. His friends and coworkers came to save him and the others at the scene.
"They are the heroes and I don't know how I am ever going to repay them," Nagel said.
Nagel spent six days in a coma, and he said he had an out-of-body experience during that time.
"Was real as could be," he remembered. "They still feel real. Part of me says, 'I went to Nicaragua.'"
He describes the feeling as strange, but he's not focusing on that during his recovery. Rather, Nagel told Fox 9 News his thoughts have mostly been centered on the partner he was working with that fateful day -- Tim Daly.
"I worried about him," Nagel said.
Daly, who declined an on-camera interview, said he is coming along nicely and should be out of his wheel chair in six to eight weeks -- but the change in his mobility never stopped him from visiting Nagel in the hospital.
"He's a really good guy and my heart was overjoyed to see he was okay," Nagel said.
As Nagel was thinking of others involved in the crash, tens of thousands were thinking of him. His CaringBridge site saw more than 60,000 visits.
"Sometimes in my business, you see tough things out there and forget there are amazing people out there," Nagel said. "It reaffirms the world is good. There is hope out there and love and kindness."
Many who followed his progress say they can't help but think his recovery is nothing short of a miracle, but he's not quite so sure.
"I believe God was there," Nagel said. "I believe what happened happened for a reason, but it always makes me a little nervous when you say 'miracle.'"
Since Nagel has been home, he's been going to therapy and working on his problem-solving skills at home in the hopes of returning to the job he loves.
"I feel like I've been benched," he admitted. "Put me in, coach! I want to get back in there so badly."
Even through it all, the man who responded to accidents says he is ready to get back to helping people as soon as possible. For now, it's not known when he can return.
"I know the job has its risks and dangers," Nagel said. "I made the decision to -- each and every day -- to step into the truck and do what needed to be done, and I'm proud of what I do."
FROM THE FOX 9 ARCHIVES