Hoping to build a new home with a new life after motorcycle accident left Rifle man a paraplegic
Citizen Telegram Editor
Eric Reicheneker can get his wheelchair into only three rooms in the home of his caregiver.
The 32-year-old Rifle man hopes he’ll be able to move into a new home in Grand Junction before winter, one with bigger doorways and rooms so he can get about more freely.
Reicheneker was injured in a March 30 motorcycle accident on I-70 in De Beque Canyon that severed his spinal cord and left him paralyzed. He spent a month in St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, then stayed at Craig Rehabilitation Hospital in Denver until July 3.
And Reicheneker hopes his new home will also house his brother, Brad, who was in a skiing accident in 2009 at Telluride and is a quadriplegic. Brad Reicheneker currently lives in Manitou Springs.
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His brother’s injury “probably helped” Eric Reicheneker start to adapt to his limitations.
“I just think you gotta get out and live,” he said of his attitude since the motorcycle accident.
Reicheneker’s caregiver, Kristina Andrew, said it’s the little things that always seem to come up in terms of adapting to daily life for someone newly confined to a wheelchair.
“Like having to double park because you can’t get the doors open wide enough,” she said.
Reicheneker’s house in Grand Junction has been torn down by friends and volunteers, he said.
“We have to supply most of the materials, but they’re doing the work,” Reicheneker explained.
To help with those expenses, along with medical expenses not covered by Medicaid, a recent silent auction fundraiser, organized by Trendz Clothing in Rifle, raised around $5,000, Andrew said.
The store also donated $1,500 in prize money won in a window display contest, for which Andrew took photos that were submitted for the contest.
But they’ve got a ways to go. Andrew said they think they’ll need around $72,000 to rebuild the home, which sits on an acre of land owned by Andrew and her husband, Mike, that Reicheneker is buying from them.
“We aren’t planning anything fancy,” Reicheneker said. “The bedrooms are just basic, just with wider doors. Nothing fancy, just a standard house, but one we can live in.”
Reicheneker’s 2010 truck also needs to be retrofitted with hand controls and a crane in the bed to lift his wheelchair into and out of the truck. That will cost around $10,000, he said.
Adding to the steps needed to adapt to life as a paraplegic is Reicheneker’s height. He’s 6 feet, 5 inches tall, so he needs larger than normal wheelchairs and shower chairs.
Still, he said he’s getting by.
“I’m getting used to not being able to get into some places,” Reicheneker said. “Doorways are the biggest adjustments.”
Reicheneker grew up in Kansas, served in the U.S. Army for five years in Korea, and was a consultant with Cathedral Energy at the time of his accident. He plans to talk to the Veterans Administration soon about what they can do to help with his medical care.
Medicare won’t accept someone who’s been paralyzed until two years later, Reicheneker said.
He wants to be able to move into his new house before winter so he can take showers. Since he can’t use the shower at Andrew’s home north of Rifle, Reicheneker has been using an outdoor shower used by campers.
“I told everyone who’s helped with the house and actually doing the work to take their time,” Reicheneker said. “They should spend some time with their families while they’re helping me. I can deal with my situation as long as it takes. It’s not the best, but it works.”
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Whether in the sky or intensive care unit, Dan LeVan routinely cared for sick or injured members of the U.S. Armed Forces.