MINNEAPOLIS -- Dale Nelson knows he probably should not have made it to the Twins' home opener on Monday.
He is battling Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and has survived two dangerous episodes of septic shock in the past five years, including one scare in February.
But when the Twins made their debut at Target Field, Nelson was there, soaking it all in. He defied the odds.
"It's outdoor baseball in Minnesota," said an elated Nelson from his seats in section 119. "Outdoor baseball finally is here."
Friends and family are more amazed that Nelson is here.
"Dale shouldn't be here by all logic and all medicine," said Jay Carroll, one of Nelson's friends.
Nelson was already battling cancer and making excellent progress against the tumor near his kidney when he began to feel ill in late February. Growing weaker by the hour, he went to Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, where he eventually ended up in the intensive care unit. A massive infection caused septic shock, forcing doctors to put Nelson in a medically-induced coma .
"Medically, he didn't have reasons that he should make it," recalled Tracy Nelson, Dale's wife.
But after nearly two weeks, Nelson woke up.
The exact same thing happened five years earlier, and Nelson was not supposed to survive that either.
"The fact that he's walked out of that situation two times is absolutely a miracle," Tracy Nelson said.
When Dale Nelson emerged from his coma this time, he panicked at first, afraid he had missed the Twins' home opener. A lifelong baseball fan, Nelson had tickets to the first game at Target Field and was planning to go with his youngest son Chase.
Dale's wife reassured him that he didn't miss the game. It was still a month away.
Still, Nelson's hands were swollen like claws and his legs were so stiff, he could not walk. Getting to the game would not be easy. It would take intense rehabilitation. But Dale was ready to accomplish his goal.
By late March he was walking around the rehab room at Methodist. He even practiced taking climbing up stairs with help from a walker.
"His progress has blown me away," said physical therapist Joni Schuessler. "He's going to bypass his goal and beat the Twins to the stadium."
Nelson left the hospital and returned home in early April. By game day, he was ready to go.
"If they have to drop me in with a helicopter, I'm going to be in those seats," he said.
Using his walker to get out of his friend's pickup truck, Nelson slid into a wheelchair outside of Gate 14 and caught his first glimpse of Target Field.
"Wow!" he said. "I had high expectations and I'm blown away."
The vivid colors, fresh air and beautiful architecture overwhelmed Nelson's senses. But more than anything, he was just thrilled to share the moment with his son Chase.
"The fact that we're all here after what happened to him means the world to us," Chase said.
Nelson is sharing a set of season tickets with four others, so he plans to attend many more games this year.
He also hopes to visit Auburn University this spring. Nelson's oldest son Cole is a starting pitcher there.
More chemotherapy is scheduled to treat Nelson's cancer in the near future. His tumor has been reduced but is not eradicated. However, his prognosis is good.
Nelson is also working with a doctor to try and figure out what caused his septic shock episodes.
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