Columbia firefighters organize benefit for injured colleague

Friday, June 18, 2010 | 4:27 p.m. CDT; updated 4:06 p.m. CDT, Saturday, June 19, 2010

*CORRECTION: Colt Doman said the fire department chose a car wash because it has low expenses and is good PR for the department. An earlier version of this article misidentified the speaker of the quote.

COLUMBIA — Keith Null spent his 23rd birthday at Rusk Rehabilitation Center recovering from injuries sustained in a traffic accident.

Null, a volunteer firefighter with the Boone County Fire Protection District, spent more than a week in critical condition at University Hospital after being involved in a two-car collision May 24. He moved to Rusk Rehabilitation Center on June 9, according to Null's aunt Angela Miller.

If you go

Car wash:

  • 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 19
  • Fire Station 12, 980 S. El Chaparral Ave.

Blood drive:

  • 12 to 8 p.m., Monday, June 28
  • Fire Station 12

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During the accident, Null sustained a brain injury, fractured pelvis and other minor injuries. He is confined to a wheelchair until he can bear weight on his hip, Miller said. Null is undergoing extensive physical therapy and still requires numerous surgeries to correct his pelvis and other injuries.

Colt Doman, who works with Null at Station 12 and calls Null his best friend, organized a car wash to help Null's family with their "astronomical medical bills."

Doman said he and other Boone County firefighters brainstormed ways to raise money and support for Null's family.

"A car wash has fairly low expenses, is easy to promote and we have the manpower," Doman* said about the final choice. "It's good PR for the fire district as well. It will get people out there and noticing the station."

Gale Blomenkamp, Division Chief of the Boone County Fire Protection District, said although the car wash will be held at Fire Station 12, 980 El Chaparral Avenue, where Null worked, firefighters from all over the district will be washing cars.

Null's colleagues are also planning a community blood drive for June 28. Doman said Keith needed about 16 units of blood after the accident, and this blood drive is "a way to give back."

As a resident volunteer firefighter, Null lives at Fire Station 12. Miller said he became interested in fighting fires because his uncle, George Miller, is a captain at the Boone County Fire Protection District. Null came to Columbia shortly after high school graduation to become a firefighter and is also a member of Missouri Task Force 1, a search and rescue team in Boone County.

Miller said Null would love to return to fighting fires after his rehabilitation.

"It's absolutely a possibility as long as he gets rehabilitated," she said. "It's just going to be a long road to get to that point. He's got a lot of work before him."

Miller said Null is able to speak to, respond to and recognize his friends and family, but "some things are a little fuzzy right now."

She added this is expected after a brain injury like Null's, and he will be able to return to normal capacity.

"He's making a really good recovery right now," Doman said. "He's a strong guy. He's going to walk and hopefully, in a year or two, get back to firefighting."

Miller also said the path to recovery could take one year to two years, but the actual length will depend on Null and his ability to rehabilitate.

"He's outgoing, friendly and always wanting to help anybody who needs help," Miller said of her nephew. "That's always been his personality. Any time you needed something, you could count on Keith to help you out."

Doman agreed, describing Null as "always smiling and really easy to get along with."

When they weren't at the fire station, Doman said he and Null liked to play video games or ride four-wheelers.

Doman said Null's friends and family will hold a birthday party for Null after the car wash Saturday at the Rusk Rehabilitation Center.

"All of the family and Keith would like to extend their gratitude to Boone County Fire, to their friends and family and to University Hospital for all of their help, prayers and support," Miller said.

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