ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - Reading from a brief prepared statement and taking no questions, the mother of chimp attack victim Andrew Oberle spoke to reporters for the first time Thursday morning at St. Louis University hospital.
“We want to thank our family and friends and all the wonderful people from all over the world who have kept Andy and all of us in their prayers,” Mary Flint said, “and for helping with donations for his care.”
Andrew Oberle Jr., 26 of St. Louis, was leading a tour of an animal sanctuary in South Africa several weeks ago when he was dragged under a fence by two chimps and savagely attacked.
After initially being treated at a hospital in South Africa Andrew was flown back to St. Louis University hospital, where he’s undergone three major surgeries in the last 10 days.
“A majority of his wounds are now closed and covered so we’re moving on to beginning the rehabilitation phase of his care,” explained Dr. Bruce Kraemer, St. Louis University Chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and Andrew’s attending physician. “At this milestone it seemed appropriate to at least acknowledge that Andrew’s done well so far.”
Without going into detail about the nature and extent of Andrew’s numerous injuries, Dr. Kraemer said he did want to set the record straight about “miscellaneous reports about things that aren’t true necessarily”.
“There was a report that he’d lost an arm, and he hasn’t,” he said. “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.”
Dr. Kraemer was more willing to talk about what it’s like working with Andrew as they move forward to the rehabilitation stage.
“His attitude is phenomenal,” Kraemer said. “He’s dealt with horrific pain but is just a sweet, loving guy who just wants to have his privacy respected now so he can figure things out on his own.”
St. Louis U. doctors will be using new aspects of plastic surgery known as “regenerative surgery” to try to restore Andrew Oberle as close to his pre-attack abilities and appearance as possible.
Dr. Kraemer suggested that it might be possible for Andrew to “grow back” what he lost during the chimp attack.
“Everything he wanted to do (before the attack) perhaps he’ll have some limitations,” Kraemer said. “I guess in the bigger context he’s been saved. What is God’s plan for him at this point? He obviously helped him to this point, where is he going forward? We don’t know.”
For more information about contributing to a fund set up to help Andrew Oberle and his family, go to www.helpandrew.org, or visit the Facebook page created by family and friends called “Help Andrew Oberle”.