Their love story traces back to their teenage years.
“It was 1993. I was a manager at Pizza Hut. Jen shortly after got a job as a waitress and we kind of met that way,” Andy Nitz said. “The first thing that caught my eye right away, she was a beautiful girl. She was very outgoing and fun to be with.”
The relationship blossomed into a more than 20-year marriage and raising a son in central Minnesota.
Jen Nitz was a regular runner who didn’t drink or smoke. She took living a healthy lifestyle seriously alongside her husband.
“We love the outdoors and projects. We love working on stuff up north, hiking, and biking and time on the water. We’re outside as much as possible,” Andy said.
It’s what makes Jen Nitz’s story so heartbreaking. She’s now in a wheelchair and struggles to talk.
Alpha News reporter Liz Collin asked Jen what went through her mind when she was told by her employer she would have to be vaccinated.
“Being forced,” Jen said.
“She didn’t like the fact the ability to choose for ourselves was taken away,” Andy added.
Jen Nitz had recovered from COVID before and primarily worked from home as a special investigator for health insurance fraud for Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
“It was tough and we talked about it. I didn’t want her to get it, but I understood the hard decision she was up against. She was in the same company for 20 years and she was in the position where she absolutely loved her job. She found her spot. She was very passionate about it,” Andy said.
Jen had suffered allergic reactions to flu vaccines in the past. She finally received her first Pfizer shot in October 2021. Shortly after her second in November, concerning symptoms set in.
“Then things started to reoccur. She was getting nightly headaches, then really bad chest pains,” Andy said.
Ultimately, it was a family workout the morning of Thanksgiving when it became much more serious.
“We were working out in the same area for a while. I was on the stair climber and she was on the treadmill. That was about enough for me, so Dawson and I went to the pool and hot tub. That’s when it came across the loudspeaker. She had asked them to call for me when she knew something was going on,” Andy recalled.
“I felt off and fell over,” Jen said.
Jen suffered a brainstem stroke at the age of 49. She barely survived.
“I had an ICU nurse call me and say, ‘You know, be prepared when you get here, she might not be here.’ It was like that for a few days. It was a very tough time,” Andy said.
“It’s a tough area because all the cranial nerves kind of come out of that. It literally has affected Jen from head to toe from one way or another,” he explained.
After coming out of a 10-day, medically-induced coma, Andy says Jen was quick to connect the dots.
“I kind of suspected the vaccine, but none of that really mattered at that point. We hadn’t talked about it yet, but a Pfizer commercial came on and she almost came out of her chair. That’s when I asked her, ‘Do you think it was the vaccine that did this to you?’ She knew it right away,” Andy said.
Jen spent months away from her family in a rehab center as Andy scrambled to make changes at home to bring them all back together.
A harness system on a treadmill and tandem bicycle have brought back some movement in Jen’s arm and leg.
“It feels like they have a boilerplate protocol for stroke therapy. This is about as much as we think we can do for you so it’s time for you to go home. Meanwhile, we know we have a lot of ground we can cover and improvement we can make,” Andy said.
“I’m stubborn,” Jen said.
“Yep, she’s stubborn,” Andy confirmed. “This woman fights harder than anyone I can imagine.”
Still, nearly a year and a half later, they can’t help but think this didn’t have to happen.
“It’s so frustrating to see how much of this has affected other people’s lives,” Andy said.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota sent the following statement to Alpha News:
“For privacy reasons, we cannot comment on the medical history of current or former associates.
Throughout the pandemic, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota held the health and safety of our associates as top priorities. Our COVID-19 vaccination policy did allow for exemption requests to be considered based on physician certified medical reasons or sincerely held religious beliefs.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota ended our COVID-19 vaccine requirement as a condition of employment in September 2022. This decision was informed by the decrease in COVID-19 cases in Minnesota at the time as well as changes in guidance from public health authorities.”
Jen didn’t want to risk losing her job and a career she loved.
“Look at me now,” Jen said. “No job.”
10 months after Jen’s stroke, the company dropped its mandate as a condition of employment.
Alpha News asked if anyone has apologized for what happened.
“No, never,” Jen said.
Andy reported Jen’s injury himself to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.
He only recently received a follow-up as they await some kind of compensation.
More than 20,000 Minnesotans have reported adverse events associated with the shots — 287 people with permanent disabilities and 500 deaths.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has only recently acknowledged a stroke risk associated with Pfizer injections.
The Nitz family has relied on their faith and a common goal.
“I want to be independent again,” Jen said.
“Jen was very active with Dawson. She still spends time with him, but it’s different. It’s been tough for him, too. It’s been tough for him to have this happen,” Andy said.
They now recognize that life can change in an instant and unconditional love is perhaps the most powerful medicine of all.
“Don’t lose hope and just keep working. You can’t ever give up,” Andy said.
“Keep fighting,” Jen remarked.
Jen’s family has organized a fundraiser to help with her recovery.