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An unexpected reunion: How an 11-year-old went from translator to an LPN

Posted at 8:56 AM, Dec 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-06 13:04:20-05

GREEN BAY NBC26 — Every once in a while, we experience a defining moment that changes our lives - and future - for the better. Nadia Sierra Ruiz had that moment at age 11, even if she didn’t quite know it yet.

Sixteen years ago this June, the Sierra Ruiz family was figuring out doctor appointments and scheduling surgeries for their oldest daughter, 22-year-old Analilia. After a horrific car accident, Analilia was in a coma and in need of facial reconstructive surgery. To add to the stress, the only family member who could speak English was 11-year-old Nadia. As other 11-year-olds were enjoying the summer sun, Nadia was helping the family schedule appointments and understand what medical state her sister was in.

I felt like it was a lot of pressure, it was a lot of pressure. But I was the only one who could facilitate that at that time,” said Sierra Ruiz.

The doctor that 11-year-old Nadia was in charge of speaking to was Dr. Dierberg, a plastic surgeon.

“The thing I remember most, and have remembered for so long was when I had to call the house and had to talk about medical stuff, it's unusual to ask for the 11-year-old,” said Dierberg.

Unusual, but all part of a grander scheme.

The two met again a few years later when Nadia accompanied her sister for follow-up surgery. But after that, nearly 5 years went by with no contact.

In those 5 years, Nadia graduated high school and began working as a medical assistant at the age of 20. After getting that job she noticed a familiar face walking around.

“I would see him in passing,” said Serria Ruiz. “He was two floors above me, and it had been nine years [since the accident] at that point, and I thought, 'There is no way he remembers me.'”

But, he remembered her. He watched her from a distance and wasn’t a bit surprised with how that 11-year-old “translator” had turned out.

“You can’t teach personality and even at 11 years old she had something to her,” said Dierberg.

And if this didn’t feel like a movie script yet, just hold on.

The two joined the Plastic Surgery and Skin Specialists by BayCare Clinic within 6 months of each other and now work side by side as plastic surgeon and nurse.

“Around this time of year, I am made to watch Hallmark movies with my wife," said Dierberg. “And this feel like a real-life... movie.”

And Sierra Ruiz says the same.

“How often does something like this happen?”

And when asked why she became a nurse she says:

“You don’t always remember what people say to you but you do remember the way they make you feel. And I wanted to make people feel the way Dr. Dierberg made me and my family feel during that time.”