SAN ANTONIO - A former St. Mary's University and University of Texas at San Antonio student, nearly mauled to death at a chimpanzee sanctuary four years ago in South Africa, is not only making a full recovery, but working with traumatically injured patients at the same hospital where he was treated.
Andy Oberle was back in San Antonio Wednesday to visit with and thank the man who he said made it all possible, Red McCombs.
Oberle has undergone 26 surgeries to repair his nose, hands and feet.
He told McCombs he remembers where he was four years ago after he was attacked by two 180-pound chimps.
"I remember laying in my hospital bed and not knowing what my life would be," Oberle said.
McCombs said he remembers watching what happened to the young man on the news.
"Here he was, a local student trying to get his graduate degree here," McCombs said. "At the same time, he's chewed all to pieces, not expected to live."
McCombs spearheaded efforts to raise thousands of dollars for medical bills, including getting Oberle on a medical airplane from Johannesburg to a hospital in St. Louis, Missouri.
"It was an unbelievable task and then, well, maybe he'll live," McCombs said. "We had prayer circles going for him."
"Thanks to Mr. McCombs here," Oberle said. “He’s made all that possible."
Oberle will now be at the front of a new center at St. Louis University, where he was treated.
The center is named for him, the Oberle Institute, and is specifically for traumatically injured patients.
"We're really going to focus on providing that comprehensive care to traumatically injured patients," Oberle said. "So not only help them rebuild body, mind and spirit, but really help them get back to that independent living."
Oberle said he remembers what it's like and recalls how his rescue dog, Angie, also helped him pull through.
"She was by my side," he said. "She was there, really, through some of my toughest times when I would come home from surgery."
Oberle will see his first patient in February.
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