West County EMS & Fire helps install handrails, safety devices in Ballwin couple’s home

BALLWIN, MO (KPLR) - It’s a story of firefighter-paramedics truly going beyond the call for a Ballwin couple in need.

Joe and Merridee Wildeisen are disabled seniors. Merridee is fall-prone and Joe is unable to help her get back to her feet.

The couple had to call 911 for help weekly, maybe daily, or sometimes several times-a-day.

West County EMS & Fire firefighter-paramedics responded repeatedly for “lift assist” calls, which can be very serious. Suddenly, they no longer walk the familiar hallway leading to Merridee’s bathroom where she most frequently fell.

Suddenly, there is silence instead of the sound of sirens at the Wildeisen house.

“The smile and appreciation in their voice was unbelievable,” said West County EMS & Fire Captain Tex Rabenau.

His department and Home Depot joined forces to help the Wildeisens get around their own house. Joe is an amputee and uses a wheelchair. Merridee uses a walker.

She was repeatedly falling so they were repeatedly calling for help, Joe said.

“We really didn’t have anything to keep Merridee from falling,” he said.

“We recognized, ‘Hey, these guys need help. She doesn’t want to fall,’” said West County EMS & Fire Captain Kevin Smith. “We run calls all the time when people fall and they break their hip. They’ve got to go to the hospital. We didn’t want to see that with this lady.”

He and Rabenau came up with the idea to install handrails in the Wildeisen’s hallway and bathrooms. Home Depot donated the materials. Workers there and from West County EMS & Fire donated the labor. People even gave up time on their days off to help.

The Wildeisens paid nothing for the life-changing help. They didn’t even have to ask for it.

Now the only reason the firefighter-paramedics have been going by the Wildeisen’s place is to say ‘hi’ and seen how they’re doing.

“It’s two-fold. We’re not running over there but she’s also not falling. She’s not taking a chance on breaking a hip,” Smith said.

“It completely changed their lives,” Rabenau said. “What might seem simple as putting a couple of handrails up was such a change for them because now they can assist themselves.”

“I want to just thank them really for all that they’ve done. And I also want to thank Home Depot for providing the supplies…it’s very much going beyond the call of duty,” said Joe Wildeisen.

There’s been only one “lift assist” call in the past 45 days.