Billy Krehmeier, of Swansea, tells his parents and friends he’s glad it’s him in the hospital bed. Glad he’s the one with the broken neck, and not one of his friends he was with a week and a half ago when he fell from the balcony at his family’s vacation home at Table Rock Lake in Missouri.
“Billy has told us several times he’s glad if anybody fell it was him, because he can handle it,” said his mother, Deborah Krehmeier, by phone from the waiting room at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Mo., where her son remained Tuesday.
It’s unclear how Billy Krehmeier fell from the balcony. There were no witnesses to the fall, his mother said.
In the days since the accident, his friends have mobilized to be a funding and support network for Krehmeier, his family and his future.
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We’re finally coming through the shock of it a little bit, and realizing what’s there in front of us.
It started when some of those friends dating to their days at Wolf Branch School and Belleville East High School ran to direct the ambulance to him, while his brother, Emmett Krehmeier, 24, held his head and his dad, Scott Krehmeier, gave him CPR. It continues as those friends raise money for his care, research clinical trials and text his mother.
Longtime friend Matt Markle started a GoFundMe account, “Hope for Billy Krehmeier,” and hopes to raise $50,000 for his friend, who will be 26 on Sept. 6. The fund had raised about $15,000 as of Tuesday.
He is unable to move. He had a tracheotomy put in on Monday, and also has a feeding tube, his mother said.
“Anyone that knows him knows he’s the nicest and most selfless person,” said Markle, who was not with the Krehmeiers at the accident on Aug. 20 but drove down soon after.
“His brain is completely fine, but he can’t talk and it’s really frustrating him,” Markle said.
Krehmeier can wear a visor with a laser and point to letters on a board to communicate. That’s how Krehmeier told Markle, “I’m glad this happened to me and nobody else.”
Deborah Krehmeier said it was too soon to say what will happen, but the family and Billy Krehmeier’s friends are hoping stem-cell therapy can help him regain some movement in his hands someday.
Billy Krehmeier works for an information technology recruiting agency and planned to go back to Southwestern Illinois College to get another degree, his mother said.
He will need a wheelchair that can be operated by his head movements, and that’s at least $15,000, Markle said. Krehmeier’s mother said they’ll need a hospital bed for him someday, and a vehicle that can fit him and his future wheelchair. Their home will have to be renovated to accommodate as well.
“We’re finally coming through the shock of it a little bit, and realizing what’s there in front of us,” she said.
But shining through the negative is Billy Krehmeier’s relationships with his friends, according to his mother.
“He has a whole host of buddies that are all brothers, that have lived with us on and off starting from grade school,” she said, and those same buddy-brothers are crowding his hospital room. “He’s got a gazillion friends, and they’ve all been coming in here.”
“They’re driving from Belleville, four hours, to spend half an hour with him, and turn around and drive back just to do it again two days later,” she said.
Markle said, “It’s a really tragic thing to happen to such a good guy.”