Van paid for through Internet donations gets paralyzed crash victim mobile again
By Barry Kawa,
Plain Dealer Reporter

CHARDON - Motorcyclists on the Internet are taking Eddie Kieger beyond the confines of his nursing home room, thanks to $12,000 they have raised to buy him a special van.

Three of those motorcyclists were at Heather Hill yesterday in Chardon as Kieger, paralyzed in a riding accident three years ago in California, got his new wheels.

His mother, Ann Kieger of Shaker Heights, bundled up her son, and the rotary lift hoisted his wheelchair into the red 1988 Ford van. Kieger, 33, unable to speak since his accident, cried.

"I think this will improve the quality of his life," said Shirl Grant, of Pittsburgh, who set up a World Wide Web home page on the Internet for Kieger. "Eddie will be able to get out and not just look at the four walls."

Grant, also a motorcycle enthusiast, corresponded with Kieger on the Internet before his accident. Kieger, a Cleveland Heights native, was working as a computer design engineer in Northern California's Silicon Valley after he served four years in the Navy.

He lost control of his Harley-Davidson and crashed March 26, 1994. Although he was wearing a helmet, he suffered a severe head injury which left him in a coma for about a month and he has been recovering since.

His mother brought him first to a rehabilitation hospital in Erie, Pa, then to Heather Hill.

Grant heard about Kieger's accident, and the need for a van, on the Internet. When she asked for donations in mid-January, hundreds of motorcyclists from places as far away as Guam, Spain and Finland responded, giving more than $12,000. The WWW home page is at:

"I can't conceive of any other group of people being consistently this good," said his father, Edward F. Kieger II of Cleveland Heights.

Ann Kieger, A Shaker Heights real estate agent, said her son's recovery has been hampered by the insurance company's refusal to pay for therapy, saying his injury is too severe to respond. "With a brain injury ... a doctor is very loathe to give you any sort of encouragement for fear you'll hold them to it," she said. "It's just a wait-and-see game."

Today, Eddie Kieger spends his days in a nursing home room with two older residents. His therapy is limited to about a half-hour a day. He also gets music therapy once a week, where brain injured patients listen to music and play instruments.

His mother put a note over his radio for the nurses to let him hear the "Car Talk" show because he used to love working on cars and his Harley. She also brought in his computer, which sits unused on a table near his bed. "I brought it in about a year ago and we put his hand next to it and his face just lit up," she said. "That was about a year ago, and he realized he couldn't make it work, and the light just sort of died in his eyes and he picked up the computer keyboard and turned it over."

Ann Kieger said her son is alert, and understands conversations, although he has difficulty responding. His family is trying to get him moved into Broadfield Manor in Madison, which deals more with patients with spinal-cord and brain injuries, and he is now at the top of the waiting list.

Yesterday, as the snow fell and his mother wrapped a blanket around him, Eddie looked content in his new van. His family and Grant climbed aboard, and his mother jumped behind the wheel. "He is liking it very, very much," Ann Kieger said. "He is so delighted and pleased with it."

They embarked down a road they hope someday will lead to a complete recovery for Kieger.

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