Almost three months after being attacked by two chimpanzees in South Africa, UTSA graduate student Andrew Oberle posted to his Facebook on Sept. 17,
“Hi everyone!i want to say say thanks to all of you for the prayers and wishes. im getting better every day thanks to all of you and my family. Hopefully I’ll be online more often so I can talk to you all. Recovery is tough but i thank God I have all you awesome people to help me through. Thanks and much love to all of you.”
The long road to recovery began this summer, during Oberle’s graduate research at the Jane Goodall Institute Chimpanzee Eden, a sanctuary that houses abused and orphaned chimpanzees. On July 28, Oberle crossed the fence into a restricted area while leading a tour of the property. Visitors watched in horror as two chimpanzees pulled Oberle under an electric fence and dragged him for half a mile across the sanctuary.
Oberle is finally healing from the extensive injuries and began rehabilitation in St. Louis, Mo. Dr. Bruce Kraemer, St. Louis University chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery and Oberle’s attending physician, stated in an interview with St Louis CBS, “He has all of his arms and legs. He’s had parts of injuries all over his body…to his head, to his trunk…but at the family’s request they don’t want to go in to what’s missing where.”
Oberle’s love for animals is deeply rooted. Oberle’s mother Mary Flint stated in an article published by the Associated Press that his passion for chimpanzees began in the seventh grade after he saw a film about Jane Goodall. Goodall’s efforts inspired Oberle to volunteer at the St. Louis Zoo throughout high school, before he moved to San Antonio.
As a full-time student at St. Mary’s University, he pursued his passion by volunteering at the San Antonio Zoo. Distance never hindered his dedication. Even while Oberle studied abroad, he took pride in his volunteer work with the Honolulu Zoo. Oberle embarked on his second trip to the Jane Goodall Institute Chimpanzee Eden, in Nelspruit, South Africa, this summer.
“Andy is just an awesome guy, and an awesome friend,” Oberle’s roommate Anthony Reimherr said in an interview with The Paisano. Reimherr described Oberle was a very healthy, active guy who often ran the seven-mile trek to UTSA from his home on Bandera Rd., worked out at the Recreation Center, and then ran home again. “Andy is the type of guy that never quits,” Reimherr said.
Oberle often celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas at the Reimherr home when he could not travel to his own home in St. Louis. Upon hearing the devastating news of their friend, Reimherr and his wife Marissa set up a website to benefit the Oberle family and his recovery. As of Aug. 17, friends and family have raised over $120,000 through the “We Pay” website and other various fundraisers and donations.
The growing support, however, is not limited to family and friends. Oberle’s story is spreading.
Over 1,500 people have showed their support by “liking” the Help Andrew Oberle page on Facebook. Friends and family, alongside many who have never met Oberle, continue to send encouragement and receive updates on Oberle’s condition. Many visitors comment on Oberle’s inspiring strength and determination.
“I was overwhelmed by the fact that his closest friends were trying to raise money for him,” Red McCombs explained to Express-News. McCombs donated $10,000 to the cause. “We realize that this probably, in the scope of things, will be a drop in the bucket of what will ultimately be required,” he continued. “We don’t want the family to be concerned about what they do day to day while he’s fighting for his life. We’ll take that pressure off of them.”
Evidence of Oberle’s recovery comes in strides. Reimherr strives to maintain a positive attitude when the two friends speak on the telephone. Neither mentions the accident. Reimherr even noted that his friend still sounds as he did before. Today, Oberle spends much of his time watching his favorite baseball team, the St. Louis Cardinals, and catching up on recordings of the summer Olympics.
“His attitude is phenomenal,” Kraemer said. “He’s dealt with horrific pain, but he is just a sweet, loving guy.”
For more information, or to support Andrew Oberle’s recovery, visit https://www.wepay.com/donations/169244