Highland Mayor Joe Michaelis took a big step in his recovery on Friday.
Using a safety harness and with some assistance, Michaelis was able to take a couple steps for the first time since a fall down his basement steps on Jan. 25, when he broke his neck and back.
The mayor was also able to stand on his feet for 10 minutes using parallel bars.
“I’m happy with my progress,” Michaelis said in a telephone interview Monday night.
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Six weeks ago, Michaelis didn’t think he would be able to stand again, much less walk. But on Monday, during three more hours of “grueling” physical therapy, he took two more steps with the harness and assistance. He also stood again at the parallel bar for 10 more minutes.
Different doctors have given him opinions that he could be walking again on his own in anywhere from three months to a year from now. However, Michaelis expects he will need a wheelchair for the foreseeable future. He is currently learning how to transition from his chair to a bed and couch. He is also being retaught how to use kitchen utensils.
“I’m being taught how to do the simple things in life that people often take for granted,” he said.
Tomorrow, the 64-year-old Michaelis, who has been Highland’s mayor for 10 years, will move from a rehab facility in St. Louis into Eden Village Retirement Community in Glen Carbon, where he will continue with his rehab for an undetermined amount of time.
Michaelis hopes to move back to Highland in the future. But when he does, he will need the assistance of a handicap-accessible vehicle.
Shaun Voegele of Voegele Photography Studio, recently started an online campaign to raise $40,000 to buy Michaelis such a van that could get him to therapy sessions and maybe one day, back to city hall.
Voegele said he always found Michaelis inspiring when he coached his Highland High School football and wrestling teams. Voegele said he is now drawing inspiration from seeing Michaelis fight his own battle.
“He’s just a good guy,” he said.
A van that will suit Michaelis’ needs has been located at McGinley Chrysler in Highland, and the dealership is willing to sell it for a reduced price to support the mayor’s rehabilitation efforts. As of Tuesday morning, $3,950 had been raised.
Michaelis said he recently found out about the van, and “was humbled” by the efforts of Voegele and the community and hopes to return the favor.
“I will do the best I can to serve the residents of Highland, and walk again,” he said.