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Mike Peerson

Mike Peerson of Rogers didn’t know if he’d ever walk again after breaking his back in an accident. But that wasn’t the only challenge he faced. Mike was flown to Washington Regional, the area’s only Level II trauma center, where during an operation to repair his spine he developed a blood clot in his pulmonary artery. Hear how Washington Regional neurosurgery and cardiovascular & thoracic surgery teams worked together to save his life.

Retired pharmacist Mike Peerson was on his way to check out a fire in his Rogers neighborhood when the ATV he was driving hit a low spot and rolled over, falling into a deep ravine.

Mike’s wife, Jeanette, was at their home when she heard a siren. Knowing that fire trucks had already responded to the fire, she thought, “Oh, that sounds like an ambulance. I hope everything‘s OK over there.” She walked to the scene and talked to a first responder. “He told me a man had rolled his ATV,” Jeanette says. “I knew it was him.”

Firefighters had formed a line into the ravine and were working to lift Mike out. “When they got him out, they said they were life-flighting him to Washington Regional,” Jeanette says. The Level II Trauma Center at Washington Regional’s Emergency Department is the only one in Northwest Arkansas, providing the highest level of emergency care available in the region.

At Washington Regional, diagnostic testing revealed Mike had suffered a serious spine injury. “I had broken my back in the lumbar and thoracic region,” he explains. He and Jeanette wondered if he would be able to walk again. After talking with Dr. Brent Peterson, one of four fellowship-trained complex spine surgeons at Washington Regional Brain and Spine Clinic, they scheduled surgery to repair Mike’s back.

After resting for a couple of days to heal his more superficial injuries, Mike was ready for surgery. Once he was under anesthesia, however, he developed a blood clot in his pulmonary artery. “I threw a massive pulmonary embolism and for all intents and purposes coded right there on the table,” Mike says. Quick thinking by the nurse anesthetist kept the clot from stopping the flow of blood, but Mike would need an immediate procedure to remove the life-threatening clot.

Fortunately, cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon Russell Wood had just completed a surgery in the operating room next door. Dr. Wood is one of the four surgeons at Washington Regional Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery Clinic. “The pulmonary embolism team was on it,” Mike says, snapping his fingers. While pulmonary embolisms can be treated with a minimally invasive catheterization procedure, Mike’s clot was extremely large, requiring emergency surgery to remove it from his pulmonary artery. His life-threatening clot, he says, measured 13.75 inches long and was the diameter of an adult’s index finger.

With the blood clot removed, two days later Dr. Peterson performed the extensive repair to Mike’s spine. That time, Mike said, “The surgery went off without a hitch.”

Today Mike is again enjoying life with Jeanette, their two grown daughters and four grandchildren. He’s back at work at the company he founded after retirement, Rendezvous Junction Brewing Company. “I’m independent and fully walking now,” he says in amazement. “I’m out of my back brace. I’m working and active.”

He credits the teamwork at Washington Regional for saving his life.

“I think Northwest Arkansas is blessed to have the kind of team that Washington Regional has. Whether it be in the emergency room, in neurosurgery or in cardiovascular and thoracic surgery – ¬ it’s just a world-class team,” he says.

“When there is a health care team that works together like that team had to work together to save my life, saying ‘thank you’ is not enough. I can’t say enough about that team.”