Widow of slain deputy turns emotional pain into motivation to lose nearly 100 pounds
(Right) Daniell Nielsen with husband Brandon, who was killed in the line of duty last year. (Left) Nielsen after losing more than 80 pounds.
Brandon and fellow deputy Jeremy Triche, both members of the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office, were killed while investigating a shooting that took place in LaPlace. The two were questioning suspects at Riverview Trailer Park when they were ambushed and shot to death. Five people were arrested in connection with the crime.
Nielsen, 35, watched the events unfold on TV in disbelief, but was unaware at first that her husband was one of the deputies who had been killed.
“I thought, gosh, at least he would text me and let me know he was OK, surely,” she said. “My daughter had just started second grade, with no front teeth in her mouth, and I can remember looking at her thinking, gosh, he was such a good daddy. Everything changed that day.”
Nielsen, who had struggled with her weight for years, was left to care for the couple’s five children.
“I knew how to be a wife. I was a pretty good wife,” she said. “I had no idea how to be a widow.”
Realizing that she had to be strong for her children, Nielsen joined Anytime Fitness in Destrehan just six weeks after her husband was killed. Joining the club was part of a process that Nielsen refers to as “a choice to be strong.”
“You wake up and you make a choice every day that you have to be strong - for your kids you have to be strong. If you have certain goals you want to achieve you have to reach inside and find your strength,” she said. “So it’s a choice you make every day to be strong.”
Working out at Anytime Fitness several times a week, Nielsen has lost more than 80 pounds and strengthened almost every muscle in her body. All of that hard work paid off when she was honored as an Anytime Fitness “National Members Success Story.”
“We have nearly 2 million members and only four or five are honored each year as success story winners,” Dave Mortensen, president of Anytime Fitness, said. “What Daniell has accomplished, especially after what she’s been through, is truly amazing. She’s an inspiration to anyone who has ever suffered a loss and to everyone seeking to make positive changes in their lives.”
For the last six months, Nielsen has worked closely with personal trainer Brandon Hebert to lose weight. Hebert volunteered to train Nielsen for free.
“I understood that she wanted to change her identity from someone’s life who was just shattered and broken into someone who wanted to mold herself into a better person,” Hebert said.
Anytime Fitness club owners Jennifer Perkins and Michelle Oubre said Nielsen fits right in at the club and has become a part of the Anytime Fitness family.
“Members love Daniell,” Perkins said. “She comes in and everybody says hello, they all go up and hug her and she goes up to people and hugs them. She is definitely loved here.”
“I knew that she had lost her place and we had the team here to help her heal,” she said.
While Nielsen appreciates the outpouring of support she has received on her weight loss journey, she said she doesn’t want anyone to feel sorry for her.
“I want them to say, ‘This is what happened to her and this is how she reacted. This is how she overcame this tragedy in her life,’” Nielsen said.
But Nielsen knows that she has a long journey still ahead of her as she deals with her husband’s death.
“Sometimes you’’ll see me and it looks like I’m just sweating, but most of the time it’s tears running down my face,” she said.
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