Iron Workers Local 396 steps up for union brother recovering from serious health crisis


IRON WORKERS LOCAL 396 member Ryan Williams was placed in a medically induced coma after suffering seizures while under treatment for renal failure. He is recovering now but has a long road ahead of him. – Debbie Williams photo

When Iron Workers Local 396 member Ryan Williams, 26, suffered seizures while under treatment for kidney disease, his union brothers and sisters stepped up, passing the hat at the union meeting and on the job site to raise some $2,900 to help with expenses while he recovers at the Shirley Ryan Ability lab in Chicago.

“When Ryan got sick and had the seizures, we took up a collection at the union meeting,” said Local 396 Business Manager Mike Heibeck. “We’ve also done that on the job sites where he’s been working. It’s something we do for all our members when they get injured or are dealing with health issues with themselves or their families.”

Ryan has been a member of Local 396 for six years. His uncle has been in the union for 40 years.

“Ryan is a good young iron worker, and really a great kid with a bright future ahead of him, if he can beat this thing and get healed up,” Heibeck said. “We’ll be there with him and his family to help wherever we can every step of the way.”

Ryan has suffered with health issues since 2019, when he was diagnosed with renal failure (kidney disease). He went through chemo treatments, dialysis treatments and several hospitalizations to try to save his kidney. When those efforts failed, his mother, Debbie, donated a kidney to him in 2020.

In December of last year, Ryan’s body began rejecting the kidney.

From March through August of 2022, Ryan underwent several life-saving procedures, chemo treatments, treatments for dehydration, anemia, and his kidney disease that would plummet his health even more.

On Aug. 22, Ryan suffered several seizures and was sent by ambulance to Barnes Jewish Hospital where he was placed in the intensive care unit (ICU). There, he was given several drugs to stop the seizures but to his dismay, he experienced side effects from one of the drugs, Propofol, which is supposed to prevent seizures. Doctors put him into a medically induced coma to save his life. He was on life support for two weeks, during which he suffered several other health issues.

Though he is recovering now, his muscles atrophied during his time in the hospital. Going into the hospital Ryan weighed 180 pounds at 6-foot-2-inches. He now weighs only 100 pounds. He will be in in-patient rehab for at least 30 days working to regain his strength and mobility, then will hopefully return to St. Louis to continue his day-to-day rehabilitation.

In addition to the family’s ongoing medical expenses, Debbie Williams said she faced challenges getting him to Chicago, paying for food and lodging while they’re there and working out how to pay for transportation back and forth to the rehabilitation. The help and support of his fellow union members, she said, has been essential.

RYAN WILLIAMS, a member of Iron Workers Local 396, is undergoing rehabilitation now in Chicago. His union brothers and sisters raised $2,900 to help with expenses, and stand ready to help with other needs while he recovers. – Debbie Williams photo

“The union has been awesome,” Debbie Williams said. “Everyone I’ve talked to there, they’ve said ‘Whatever you need, we’re going to get you. We’re going to get you what you need.’”

The St. Louis Labor Council’s Robert J. Kelley $5 for the Fight Fund, which is administered by the United Way, is currently on standby to help with expenses when needed.

Ryan was working on the new National Geospatial Agency (NGA) facility in St. Louis prior to his current health crisis.

“It’s devastating,” Debbie Williams said. “He’s such a good kid and he’s just been dealt a really rotten card. But he’s making progress.”

After coming off life support, Ryan was flown to Chicago in a medical jet at a cost that could be up to $300,000 for the flight.

When he gets home, his house may need to be made wheelchair accessible while he recovers.

Ryan’s family has established a GoFundMe account to help with medical and other expenses. You can donate to the fund at, or click on the QR code to be taken to the donations page.

You can also donate through Venmo @debbie-williams-70.


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