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Yough High School grad was a young firefighter dealing with spinal cord injury

| Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
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Pat Nader (right) with fellow West Newton firemen Fred Horne (left) and Steve Burkett.
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Pittsburgh Pirate Neil Walker visited Pat Nader while he was recovering in the hospital.

After two-and-a-half years, Jackie Nader said she and her family were slowly adjusting to a “new normal.”

The “normal” occurred because her then 23-year-old son, Patrick Nader, spent five months in the hospital and four weeks in a rehabilitation center recovering from a spinal cord injury he sustained on July 30, 2010.

A lieutenant with the West Newton Volunteer Fire Department, Patrick Nader was responding to a call from his family's home on Mt. Pleasant Road, just outside the borough, when he crashed into a telephone pole to avoid a construction zone near Bible Alliance Church in Turkeytown.

The young firefighter, who had dislocated two vertebrae and was left a quadriplegic, underwent a number of surgeries.

“He accepted his injury very well, more than I believe I could have at that age,” his mother said.

Patrick Nader died unexpectedly Thursday morning at age 25.

“I wasn't ready for it to happen,” Jackie Nader said, adding that her son seemed to be good health. “It was no different a day than any other.”

The family believes his death may be the result of complications from his injuries. They won't know for sure until autopsy results are returned in eight to 12 weeks, his mother said.

His death was almost two years to the day that he returned home from rehabilitation, she said.

He missed his privacy and being able to spend time alone with his friends, said his father, Joe Nader.

“We had to be his parents, his caregivers and his friends,” he said.

But when asked about the difficulty of the constant care, Joe Nader didn't hesitate: “We did not mind that; we could've done that forever.”

A 2005 Yough High School graduate, Patrick Nader was employed prior to the accident as a line locator for Heath Consultants in Greensburg and as a security guard for U.S. Security Associates in Pittsburgh.

He was also an organ donor.

“He's always been like that; he's been a giving, caring person,” his mother said. “That didn't always come across, because he had a sarcastic personality, but those who knew him knew how he really was.”

At least four fundraisers were organized by the community after his accident to help defray medical costs.

West Newton Mayor Mary Popovich said she knew the “hours of care and worry and stress” would be difficult, so she helped to promote the events, including a full day of events sponsored by the fire department and other emergency organizations.

“They were so grateful for the West Newton residents and local firefighters that came together when they had this time of great stress, and I'm sure the community will reach out again,” she said.

The side effects from such a traumatic injury can be ongoing, including pressure sores, respiratory problems or blood clots, even when the person is in a stable condition, said Popovich, an assistant professor in the health science department at California University of Pennsylvania.

“Only a family who's taking care of someone really understands the impact,” she said. “I can't even imagine what the family is going through.”

A lawsuit filed on Patrick Nader's behalf in November 2010 claims the state Department of Transportation was negligent in safely operating a work zone and did not follow proper flagging procedures, according to court documents.

The Naders declined comment on the lawsuit.

PennDOT has denied the allegations.

A trial date has not been set.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by the J. William McCauley Jr. Funeral Home, 901 Vine St., West Newton.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

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