International students sponsor fundraiser for near-drowning victim

Friday, July 31, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 11:48 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 31, 2009
Yiurui Wei, an MU doctorate student, almost drowned at Tara Apartments on June 25. She was listed in critical condition Thursday morning. Friends of Wei started a fundraiser for her rehabilitation therapy costs.

COLUMBIA — Over a month after MU graduate student Yirui Wei nearly drowned in the Tara Apartments pool, friends and family have begun efforts to help pay for the expensive rehabilitation she will need.

The Friendship Association of Chinese Students and Scholars at MU has set up an account at Boone County National Bank for donations to help pay for Wei's medical treatment. Every MU graduate student is required to have student insurance, and the cost of Wei's treatment has already reached the $250,000 limit.

To Donate

There are three ways to donate money for Yirui Wei's recovery fund:

  1. Donate cash with a deposit slip or make a check payable to "Concerned Friends of Yirui Wei" or just "Yirui Wei" and give it to any Boone County National Bank in Columbia. The check or cash can be given to any teller, but they must be informed that the donation is to "Concerned Friends of Yirui Wei," run by Joey Clemons.
  2. Send a check in the mail to Joey Clemons, Boone County National Bank, 720 E. Broadway, Columbia, MO 65201.
  3. Send a check in the mail to the Friendship Association of Chinese Students. It may be addressed to Scholars President Fei Gao, 314 Life Sciences Center, 1201 E. Rollins St., Columbia, MO 65211.

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Wei, 22, was found at the bottom of the Tara Apartments pool on June 25, and has been in the intensive care unit — in and out of critical condition — since that day. Bystanders at the pool said she was under water for about five minutes, according to previous Missourian reports. About 10 days ago, Wei started to improve. She was taken off a ventilator and has since been able to breathe on her own. But because she was deprived of oxygen during the accident, her brain and lungs were injured.

Lesa Beamer, Wei's friend and thesis adviser in the biochemistry department, has visited Wei nearly every day at University Hospital and said that even with the severity of the accident, Wei is starting to regain several brain functions.

"Whatever parts of her brain that were injured are rewiring pretty quickly," Beamer said. "The doctors tell me that this happens with young people."

According to University Hospital, Wei is now considered to be in fair condition. She has regained consciousness; her indicators are favorable; and her vital signs are stable and within normal limits.

Beamer said in the past few days, Wei has been able to open her eyes, smile at people, recognize her friends when they visit and, recently, wave at familiar faces.

"I think it was Monday when she waved to me for the first time," Beamer said. "It warms my heart every time I see her take the next step to recovery."

Even with the progress Wei has been making, Beamer is still distraught over the accident. She said that after talking to international students from MU, she found that many of them don't know how to swim.

"It was just an accident, it could have happened to any of us," Beamer said. "The real tragedy was that no one could help her that was there at the time, and I'm sure nobody feels worse about it than they do."

Beamer signed onto the fundraiser on July 24 after she realized that a lack of funds would possibly keep Wei out of rehabilitation. Since then, Beamer has taken on the role of alerting the media about Wei's situation and informing people how to help out.

"It's been a group effort with the students and faculty and many other kids that knew her," Beamer said. "We've only just realized the magnitude of what we have to do in the last couple of days."

Wei is considered to be an excellent candidate for rehabilitation, Beamer said, and the process will include regaining both physical and mental abilities. She said Wei will receive "physical therapy to walk and generally regain strength/dexterity/endurance since she's been in bed so long." Because of her tracheotomy operation, Wei will need speech therapy and help learning how to swallow food.

Beamer says she is hopeful for Wei's recovery and continues to implore people to donate money toward treatment. 

"It's an incredible thing to see the pace of progress she's going through," Beamer said. "She's convinced me that she'll get better. I wasn't so sure for a while, I have to admit, but she's convinced me. Not everyone believes it yet, but they will."

To donate money for Wei's recovery, contact any Boone County National Bank in Columbia; Joey Clemons, the contact person of the fund at Boone County National Bank; or Fei Gao, president of Friendship Association of Chinese Students and Scholars.

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