The past 7 years have been particularly difficult for the Sarasota, Fla., farrier. Complications from a trimming accident in 2008 have spiraled out of control to the point that Nygaard nearly lost his life several times and now is in need of a heart transplant.
“I cut off part of my finger with my hoof knife,” he recalls. “I went to the emergency room to get it cleaned up, get a tetanus shot and some antibiotics. Long story short, they told me I didn’t need antibiotics.”
After attending the 2008 American Farrier’s Association (AFA) convention in Lexington, Ky., Nygaard started feeling ill. He tried working through it for a week, but couldn’t shake it. Nygaard drove himself to the doctor’s office, where they discovered he had a heart rate of 220 beats a minute. They rushed him to the emergency room, where he flat lined.
Doctors surgically implanted a pacemaker defibrillator to regulate the rhythm of his heart. However, unbeknownst to everyone, Nygaard was suffering from a viral infection as a result of the finger wound and the pacemaker started firing.
“I got shocked 44 times,” says the past president of the AFA. “It knocks you on your butt.”
A biopsy revealed that the infection had affected his heart.
“My local hospitals were only treating the symptoms, not the cause,” Nygaard says. “My heart function is failing. If you look at me, I look like a normal person. I’m pretty healthy, but I get light-headed and short of breath while bending over and on stairs and inclines.”
The damage is done and Nygaard needs a new heart. Yet, it’s not that simple.
“Basically, I have to get sicker before I can get a heart,” he says. “They say it will be within the next 1 to 2 years.”
Not only does Nygaard have to become sicker, he must build up a sizable amount of money before he is eligible to receive a new heart.
“They need to make sure you’re financially secure before they give away an organ like that,” Nygaard explains. “They tell me when I do need a heart, I’ll have to wait between 7 to 14 days. There isn’t really a list. The sicker people get the hearts these days.”
To help Nygaard raise the money to help pay for the transplant and rejection medication, Robbie Hunziker of Seminole, Fla., and Hank Chisholm of Lucedale, Miss., organized a 3-day clinic that will take place Dec. 11-13 at the Forrest County Multi-Purpose Center in Hattiesburg, Miss. All proceeds will benefit Nygaard’s heart transplant.
“The money they are raising for me is going right into a separate account that is specifically for the heart transplant and rejection drugs,” Nygaard says. “If anything happens to me before the heart transplant, I’ve instructed my wife to donate all of the money back to AFA causes, like the team, cultural exchange, things like that.”
A who’s who of the farrier world will be on hand to conduct clinics and demonstrations — Dan Bradley, a GE Forge & Tool clinician from Lucedale, Miss.; Tab Pigg, a Vettec clinician from Azle, Texas; Eric Gilleland of Social Circle, Ga.; Doug Workman of Cleveland, Ga.; Dr. Michael Miller, of Harvest, Ala.; Paul Dorris of Dardanelle, Ark.; and Steve Sermersheim of Divernon, Ill., to name a few.
“It’s very humbling,” Nygaard says. “I don’t know of any other trade with a brotherhood like it is in the farrier industry. The guys always seem to get together and help somebody when they are down and out.
“I’m incredibly thankful for those people, for what I’ve got and that I’m still alive. They’ve gone above and beyond.”
Please let us know what you're thankful for in your life or in the farriery world by sharing them in the comments section below.