NORFOLK, VA (WTKR)- Baseball is what used to make Brock Peterson tick. He enjoyed a 13 year professional career, playing in the minor league systems of five big league teams. Peterson even made The Show in 2013, a stint of about six weeks with the St. Louis Cardinals.
"I took my chances and ended up playing 13 years," Peterson said. "It was a lot of fun, a lot of hard work, but it brought me a lot of joy and gave me a lot of good things in life."
The Washington state native walked away from baseball after the 2015 season, earning a finance degree from Old Dominion and going into a career in medical sales. Everything was going smoothly, but this past July while he was boating with some friends, everything changed.
"I decided to dive into some water," he recalled. "I knew it was shallow, but didn't think it was as shallow as it was and ended up hitting my head and instantly knew I had broken my neck and was just holding my breath hoping somebody found me and luckily one of my friends found me and flipped me over."
Peterson was alert and conscious the whole time and knew that things would likely never be the same.
"I'd always been able to pretty much do whatever I'd set my mind to my whole life and things came to me pretty easily," he noted. "At that moment, I knew things weren't going to be easy anymore."
Peterson was transported to Virginia Beach General Hospital where he spent 17 days, undergoing surgery to stabilize his C-5 vertebrae and relieve the pressure on his neck. Following his hospital stay, he spent four months at The Shepherd Center in Atlanta, which specializes in brain and spinal injury rehabilitation. He would return home in November.
"It's been the hardest thing I've ever went through in my life," Peterson said. "Some days you wake up and you don't even want to get out of bed and other days, like yesterday, I woke up and I felt great."
Physical therapy and intense rehabilitation were not getting the former baseball standout the results for which he was hoping. He expected his body would be able to heal quicker than it was. That's when a friend pointed him towards hyperbaric therapy, the practice of breathing in 100 percent oxygen under pressure, rather than the normal 21 percent that humans normally breathe in. His friend discovered Hampton Roads Hyperbaric Therapy in Norfolk.
"When you have an illness or injury or disease, some of those cells and those tissues just are not working properly," explained Cara Mae Melton, co-owner of Hampton Roads Hyperbaric Therapy. "The oxygen comes in to help revitalize that, which then helps your body do the things that it's supposed to do."
Less than two months into the therapy, Peterson is making strides.
"One of my fingers has started working," he noted. "My arm function has increased greatly since coming here. I could barely touch my face after my injury and now I can do a lot of things and lift my arms up over my head and basically a lot of daily living things I can do now."
"That's a very, very encouraging thing to be able to think about moving something that has not been able to move before and then move it," added Melton. "That's been occurring and his strength has been improving tremendously, too. Those are very good signs."
Peterson gets his hyperbaric treatment five days a week, 90 minutes per day, and calls it the most relaxing part of his routine. His ultimate goal is to get to a point where he's living as close to normal as possible.
"I'd love to be able to get back to work," he said. "I really loved working with people and trying to help people out and enhancing their lives and I just feel like I have much more to give, and would love to be able to just get back to where I can give to people and help them with their lives."
For more information on Peterson's injury and how you can help, click here.
For more information on Hampton Roads Hyperbaric Therapy, click here.