18-year-old UMN doctoral student recovering after crash

After sustaining numerous injuries, 18-year-old Lucas Kramer is back at the University of Minnesota.

Illustration+by+Harry+Steffenhagen+and+Jane+Borstad

Illustration by Harry Steffenhagen and Jane Borstad

Precious Fondren

Many teenagers are starting their first-year of college this fall, but life is different for Lucas Kramer. The 18-year-old is working his way towards his doctorate in computer science at the University of Minnesota and recovering from a severe car accident that almost took his life. 

On Aug. 16, while riding his bike to his internship at Google in Silicon Valley, Kramer was hit by a truck that veered into the bike lane. Kramer underwent emergency surgery due to his injuries and is now studying back at the University while he recovers. 

Kramer has been attending the University since he was 11 years old, earning his bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering and his master’s degree in electrical engineering by age 15.

The Minnesota native has always been academically gifted. At age two he was reading three-letter words and at age five began reading college-level texts, according to his mother Angela Kramer.  

“He just moved very quickly through everything,” Angela Kramer said. Kramer took online advanced placement courses when he was eight years old to keep his mind busy. 

After taking the ACT exam and almost receiving a perfect score, Kramer’s parents decided he was ready for college. 

While he has seen young students in his class before, Kramer was different, said Eric Van Wyk, an associate professor at the University. 

“I was surprised, but Lucas was an exception in that he was enrolled in the University and finishing his undergrad degree at such a young age,” Van Wyk said. 

Less than a month after his accident, Kramer is back at the University, taking a class and working in Van Wyk’s research group, which is developing extensible programming language tools. 

Kramer was wearing a helmet when he was struck by the car, which his mother said may have saved his life. 

Kramer sustained a broken arm, broken elbow, over 300 stitches in his face, a completely shattered jaw and a broken nose from the accident, Angela Kramer said.   

“I don’t remember the accident actually,” Lucas Kramer said. “I just remember some people talking to me. It was kind of scary – blacking out for a little bit.” 

After the accident, a GoFundMe fundraising page was created that has raised over $4,500 in about two weeks. 

“I had some friends who told me about what happened after the accident,” said Kevin Norberg, who is running the GoFundMe and a CaringBridge page for Lucas Kramer despite having never met him. 

“I had heard about him when he started attending the [University]. I thought, ‘what an incredible young man,’” Norberg said. 

Norberg reached out to Angela Kramer, asking to help by creating fundraising pages so he could follow the progress of Kramer’s condition and raise awareness. 

“I felt like they were absolutely so caught up in all the rehab and taking care of him that they weren’t going to be able to get to that, at least until they got back to Minnesota,” Norberg said.

The funds raised are going towards Kramer’s hospital fees. 

Despite having insurance, Lucas Kramer’s medical bills have already exceeded over $70,000 and will likely add $50,000 more in surgery over the next couple of years, according to Angela Kramer. 

“Obviously it’s a huge financial burden,” Angela Kramer said. “With emergency plane tickets, to rental cars, to caring for him [in California], to the insurance.” 

Aside from the financial battle, Angela Kramer is hopeful about her son’s recovery. 

“He’s motivated and excited to start back at the [University], at least with one class. He wants to do it on campus, so we’re going to try it,” Angela Kramer said. 

Lucas Kramer was back online days after his accident helping with software efforts his research group was making. Kramer said he simply got bored and knew it was time to start stretching his “brain muscles.” 

“I wanted to do something else for a bit,” Lucas Kramer said. “I find my work interesting, so might as well.”

According to Angela Kramer, her son has a couple years before he will be fully recovered. 

“We’re just taking it one day at a time and counting all our blessings,” Angela Kramer said.