A journey to recovery

Andrew Oberle survived an attack by chimpanzees while volunteering at a great ape sanctuary in 2012.

The first thing Andrew Oberle remembered when he woke up from his induced coma at Netcare Milpark Hospital was seeing his family standing over him.

Oberle, an American, who in 2012 narrowly – some say miraculously – survived an attack by chimpanzees while volunteering at a great ape sanctuary here in South Africa.

Oberle was nearly mauled to death by two chimps in a frenzied attack that shredded part of his nose, ears, arms and feet.

Recounting the memory of when he woke up in the Parktown-based private hospital, he said his family looked both sad and relieved at the same time. “Then my mom started asking me questions and I gradually remembered what had happened to me,” he said.

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Five years on, Oberle reflected on his recovery since waking up in the hospital several weeks after his ordeal. “I remember my mom showing me the many letters and cards from people all over the world wishing me luck and offering their prayers of support,” said Oberle.

“After reading them, she hung them near the end of my bed. I remember looking down at my body covered in blood-tinged bandages but, luckily, I was able to look past that and see that collage of love and support, which helped take my mind off my condition.”

He recalls the comforting presence of critical care specialist, Dr Paul Williams, who was one of the multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals involved in his treatment. “I remember the feeling of relief every time he came to see me in my room. His compassion and confidence washed over me and always relaxed me, as far as my condition at that time allowed.”

Dr Williams remembers the severity of Oberle’s extensive injuries and the many hours of advanced medical expertise devoted to stabilise him. “Here was a critically injured young man, in the prime of his life, who showed considerable bravery in his determination to get well enough to be allowed to fly back to the US. From a medical perspective, Andrew’s case was highly complex and he required care from a multidisciplinary team to tackle the various dimensions of his condition,” said Dr Williams.

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“Looking back on when Andrew was airlifted to Netcare Milpark Hospital, and now hearing about the progress he has made, the extent of his recovery is truly remarkable. It is very rewarding whenever a former patient gets in touch and tells us how they have got on in life.”

Oberle expressed particular thanks to trauma surgeon, Dr Riaan Pretorius, for his lifesaving interventions and the support he showed his parents; as well as physiotherapist, Moira Wilson.

Back in the US, Oberle received further treatment and continued his healing journey.

Oberle is just one of the remarkable recovery stories of Netcare Milpark Hospital’s level-one accredited trauma unit, which marks its 25th anniversary on 9 November this year.

Details: Martina Nicolson Associates 011 469 3016.

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