By Kate Raddatz

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (WCCO) — It’s a busy but somber day in a St. Cloud home.

Nicole Van Heel’s family and friends are remembering her through photos and stories.

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“She made me very, very proud,” said Van Heel’s mother Michelle. “So proud to be her mom.”

Michelle says her daughter was selfless, even as a child.

“The warm heart. Always willing and wanting to help out,” she said.

It made sense Nicole would become a paramedic of almost 12 years — and a volunteer firefighter. But, after suffering a stroke on the job in June, it was the 34-year-old who now needed some help.

Nicole VanHeel (credit: Gold Cross Ambulance)

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She started therapy and was doing better after a surgery the week of Thanksgiving, but a deadly blood clot was something no one, including Van Heel, saw coming.

Amanda Cherne and Van Heel worked together as paramedics. In fact, Van Heel was going to be in her wedding this winter.

“It’s going to be hard,” Cherne said. “We’ve known each other since junior high, and friends since high school.”

Though she died too young, her friends have some solace knowing Van Heel helped save thousands of lives.

“She was willing to be part of that and help people in their bad times and their good times,” Elie Deeb, operational supervisor of Gold Cross Ambulance said.

She made impact that will last well beyond her years.

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“She made a difference in a lot of peoples’ lives,” Deeb said.

Kate Raddatz