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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Tragic accident can't take away photographer's spirit

The Sunday edition of the Belleville News-Democrat has an extensive feature about Gerry "Chief" Frierdich, the Belleville photographer and recumbent cyclist seriously injured in an accident Aug. 19.

About 6:10 that morning, he was riding his bicycle on the shoulder of South Green Mount Road in Belleville when a pickup veered off and slammed into him.

Gerry doesn't remember the accident, according to the article by Sunday Magazine editor Maureen Houston. He woke about five weeks later, a quadraplegic. Cervical discs 6 and 7 in his spine suffered severe damage from the impact. Every ligament and tendon near the discs were torn.

He has paralysis from the chest down. He can move his forearms, but has no fine motor movement in his hands. His diaphragm is weak, but building his strength back will help him breathe easier, said his sister, Robyn Weilbacher.

Over the last couple of months, Gerry dealt with four broken ribs, a blood infection, pleursy, pneumonia, a collapsed lung, a traecheotomy, multiple infections, peripheral vision loss in his right eye, constant pain in his back and left arm, and a lot of wondering about the future.

"It's scary," Gerry told the News-Democrat. "You wake up and you just can't move. I'm taking it day by day. If I think about it too much, I get depressed."

On Thursday, Gerry was transported to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago for up to a year of rehabilitation.

To raise money for his expensive treatment, friends of Gerry are selling the T-shirt shown at left. The shirts are $15 for adults (sizes S, M, L, XL and XL) and $12 for children (sizes S, M and L).
To place an order, contact Sandy Gore at 4gores@charter.net or 618-277-5129. So that your order doesn’t get delayed, please specify the number of shirts and sizes. Payment will be due when your order is picked up. You can get more information about the shirt and Gerry at the Chief Get Well Web site.

There is a strong probability the Belleville Area Bicycling and Eating Society will help friends and family of Gerry put on a benefit ride in the spring of 2008.

To date, no charges have been filed against the driver of the pickup truck, but my understanding is that the case remains under investigation by the St. Clair County State's Attorney's office. It was only recently that investigators were able to speak to Gerry about the accident.

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