A fundraiser is being held for Brock Peterson, a 2002 W.F. West graduate, who was injured in a swimming accident in early July.
Peterson, 37, was paralyzed from the chest down while diving with friends in Virginia Beach, Virginia, on July 3. He isn't sure what he struck in the water.
“I just felt a little bump, tried to swim and felt like I wasn’t going anywhere,” Peterson said. “I opened my eyes and my arms were just dangling down in front of me. As I told myself to swim, nothing happened. I knew instantly I had broke my neck somehow.”
All Peterson could do was hold his breath and hope someone saved him. Luckily, moments before he drowned, a friend found him and pulled him out of the water.
He underwent surgery two days later to repair a fractured vertebrae in his back. He was then flown to Shepherd’s Center in Atlanta, one of the top-10 spinal cord rehabilitation centers in the country. He’s been there 11 days and is mostly pain-free other than in his neck and shoulders.
“My neck hurts when I move it in certain directions or when I have to hold it up for too long,” Peterson said. “Mostly my shoulders just hurt, and that’s one of the few things on my body that I can feel normal. But all my muscles aren’t working correctly so it’s pulling my shoulders out of alignment.”
Peterson has already noticed an improvement in recovery since arriving in Atlanta. He has regained feeling in his arms and is able to move them a little, though he has no real use of his hands. His fingers don’t work yet but he’s learned to pick things up by using techniques the center has taught him.
“The pinky-side of my arms was completely numb and I’m starting to get some feeling there,” Peterson said. “And the muscles are starting to fire up in my arms, which is giving me some hope that the hands will come back soon.”
Peterson spent 13 years playing minor league baseball after being selected in the 49th round of the 2002 MLB draft. He retired at the age of 31 in 2015.
“I’m not real good at sitting in one place very long so this has been really challenging for me,” Peterson said.
After retiring at the age of 31, Peterson earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from Old Dominion University and had been working in orthopedic device sales at the time of his accident.
An online fundraiser has raised more than $108,000 as of July 30, with a goal of $300,000, to help pay for medical expenses.
The upcoming fundraiser, which will have a silent auction, a live auction and a concert, will be held at 5 p.m. on Aug. 21 at 100 Robin Rd. in Adna. The silent auction starts at 5 p.m., the live auction at 6 p.m. and live music by Robert Counts and Jimmy Ritchey at 7 p.m.
Peterson said he’s grateful for the outpouring show of support he’s received from everyone.
“A lot of people involved have put in a ton of work to make it a really fun event for everybody that attends, and also just beneficially meant to help me and my family out with some of the impending bills we know are coming,” Peterson said. “Feel honored and lucky to have people that care about me enough to go above and beyond to try and set something up to help me out.”