SOUTH BEND — A man who suffered serious injuries when a tree limb fell on him is making progress and is going through therapy. Now, his family is raising money to help pay for his medical and living expenses.
Rich Borkholder, 54, of New Paris, was cutting down a tree to collect firewood with his friend Kirby Myers when a limb struck him the morning of Jan. 18.
The tree they were trying to cut was big enough that the chainsaw couldn't go through the limb at once, so the two men decided to cut it by parts. As they were finishing, the limb took a turn and fell on Borkholder, according to his son, Jason Borkholder.
Paramedics made an initial assessment and called a helicopter to have Rich Borkholder airlifted to Memorial Hospital in South Bend.
At the hospital, a neurosurgeon took Rich Borkholder into surgery for six hours, Jason Borkholder said.
"Those were the longest six hours of our lives. We were worried for our dad's life," he said. "But even then his spirit was showing through."
Rich Borkholder suffered injuries to his vertebrae, his spinal cord and his back. He also broke a few ribs on his right side and cracked his sternum.
After the surgery the family was told he had a 1 percent chance of regaining the use of his legs. And yet the next day, Borkholder was able to feel parts of his upper legs. Since then, he has told his family he can now feel his toes, Jason Borkholder said.
"It's a miracle that he's even alive," Jason Borkholder said.
Borkholder has made significant progress. He was quickly moved from the intensive care unit to the neurological floor and then to the rehabilitation center. He started some therapy sessions Monday.
But the injuries have put a hold on his income. Borkholder is co-owner of BC Builders. Co-owner Larry Cook is having to run the company on his own for the most part, although Borkholder has been helping from the hospital bed as much as he can.
"Dad's still determined to run the show," Jason Borkholder said. "He's still very actively involved from the hospital."
Rich Borkholder's family has created a website and and set up a fund in which community members can help.
Anyone interested can make a donation through Interra Credit Union under the Rich Borkholder Benefit Fund. They can also donate online at www.teamrich.us and at the Rich Borkholder page at giveforward.com.
The family is also selling T-shirts, and is hoping to sell 100 T-shirts by Feb. 6.
On Friday, Jan. 31, members of Borkholder's family will go to the Fairfield boys basketball game, where they sold T-shirts and spoke to the community, thanking them for their support.
All the proceeds will go directly to Rich Borkholder and his wife, Nancy, which will help them pay for Rich Borkholder's medical bills and their living expenses.
"His spirit is amazing," Jason Borkholder said. "He inspired us to rally around him. And we're just hoping that the community will rally around him, too."