A salute to Nels Hadden

Nels Hadden with wife Betsy and son William and daughter Chelsie are shown in this photo taken about four years ago. Nels Hadden remains in critical condition in a Portland hospital after a car hit him during icy conditions on Interstate 84 near Rufus.<BR><I>Photo contributed by Glen Dickason</i>

"A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead with no clothes. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'"

From the parable of the Good Samaritan

Nels Hadden is still clinging to life at Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland.

With each passing day, he makes slow, steady progress as he fights to recover from the devastating injuries he suffered when he was struck alongside Interstate 84 as he sought to aid a motorist whose car had flipped after hitting an ice patch near the John Day Dam.

The second car, the one which slid into Hadden, had hit the same patch of ice. Conditions were brutal that day on the interstate and drivers were literally defenseless.

Hadden's family wonders aloud why a man who tried to do the right thing could have had something like this happen to him.

Answers do not come easily to such complex questions.

If there is one thing we know for sure, it is Nels Hadden appears to have spent a lifetime doing the right thing - being the good Samaritan. This was not the first time he had stopped to help someone in a car accident, nor was it the first time he had reached out to help someone in need.

That, according to those who know him, is what he's about.

Hadden, a network field engineer for US Cellular, was returning to Eastern Oregon after working in The Dalles area that cold Monday afternoon when he saw the accident. He stopped to help a woman in an overturned Ford Focus.

After helping Juana Fortier, 47, of Portland, out of her overturned car, Hadden was placing flares along the road. That's when a second driver lost control of her car and helplessly drove into Hadden.

A helicopter ambulance flew him to Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland, where he has remained in critical condition ever since the Jan. 26 accident. Although he is heavily sedated, friends say he is beginning to show signs of awareness.

At the time, Hadden's son, William, said the crash "pretty much broke every major bone" in his father's body: It broke both shins, shattered his left arm and hand, broke his pelvis and nearly all his ribs. The impact also punctured his lungs, injured internal organs and tore his aorta.

Hadden's wife and two children have been with the man they say is "just plain good" almost non-stop since the accident. The two children, William and Chelsie, students at McLoughlin High School in Milton-Freewater, didn't return to class until Tuesday of this week.

As the story of Nels Hadden has unfolded, and as his friends, co-workers, and family conduct a vigil of care and concern, we have come to know more about an extraordinary, but humble man who is simply guided by the need to do the right thing.

The time has now come for us to reach out to him in return.

He's our good Samaritan and we pray for his recovery.

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