Meet Inspiring Patient: Peter Poker
Location: Denver, Colorado
Work title and company: Project Manager at PCL Construction Services, Inc.
Overcoming a limb challenge
Please tell us about the limb challenge that you faced.
I was involved in a motorcycle accident in May of 2001, which caused severe internal injuries along with Brachial Plexus Avulsions on the left sides of my C6, C7, and T1 vertebrae.
The Brachial Plexus avulsions left me with full paralysis of my left arm, including my trapezius and pectoral muscles, and severe Phantom Limb Pain. Over the next six years, I underwent multiple surgeries, including a nerve transplant, Dorsal root entry zone (DREZ) lesioning for pain management, and two amputations (one at the elbow, then an additional at the shoulder).
During the time of my accident, the opioid epidemic was in full effect, and looking back, I was over-prescribed and over-used multiple types of opioids, which have led to both addiction and mental health issues.
I also never sought out the proper counseling/therapy to deal with/cope with the accident, paralysis of my limb, and changing of my lifestyle, which I regret.
Before my accident, I was an extremely active teenager who loved outdoor activities (snowmobiles, skiing/snowboarding, fishing, and hunting). I was also very active with automobiles and construction. After the accident and during surgeries, I was requested to live a less active/non-impact life while I healed. Eventually, I lost touch with a lot of these hobbies.
It was also difficult to find employers who would give me a chance and not discriminate against my injury.
Limb Preservation Foundation (LPF): How are you doing now? What progress are you most proud of?
I’m doing extremely well. I’m most proud of being self-supporting and self-sufficient. I don’t have to depend on anyone financially or physically.
What would you want other people in the same position to know?
That it is okay to not be okay, seek help/counseling/support early on after your accident/injury.
What kind of support did you appreciate most?
People who treated me equally and wouldn’t let me say “I can’t” or “I’m not able.”
What was the most challenging part of your journey?
Addiction (coping challenges) and re-learning life one-handed/armed.
Being willing to try things multiple times and being okay with failing.
What do you wish people knew about Limb Loss?
There are emotional scars/injuries that need time to heal, just like the injury itself. I wish people understood Phantom Limb pain and the stress it puts on you mentally, physically, and emotionally.
What are you most proud of throughout your journey?
Never giving up, graduating college, and obtaining a successful and rewarding career in the construction industry.
What is next for you? What are your hopes for the future? What are some goals you have related to your limb challenge?
I want to start giving back by volunteering for limb injury survivors and addiction/recovery programs.
Other goals are to complete my first elk hunt and try to snowboard again.
Why would you recommend that other people facing a limb challenge reach out to the Limb Preservation Foundation?
To get help and understand the support that is out there. Also, to get exposed to the adaptive equipment and tricks out there.