Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Idaho Native LDS Missionary Zerin Petersen Suffers Spinal Injury In Freak Accident In Colorado Springs, Partially Paralyzed But Prognosis Good

Update December 2nd, 2012: Over three years later, Elder Petersen still has not completely recovered, but continues to make progress. He's now trying to build his own business by becoming an Independent Nikken Consultant. Updated post HERE.

Via the Mormon Mission blog, I've learned than sometime in late June 2009 (precise date not specified), Elder Zerin Petersen, an Idaho native serving in the Colorado Springs mission, suffered a spinal injury as a result of a freak Slip-N-Slide accident at a local member's house. It is an activity that missionaries have engaged in for years without incident or injury. Elder Peterson landed at the bottom in an unusual fashion, resulting in him breaking the C4 vertebrae in his neck. When others ran to his rescue, Elder Petersen had the presence of mind to warn them that he had a neck injury, thus preventing rescuers from moving him in such a fashion as to worsen his condition.

Nevertheless, according to Elder Craft's blog, Elder Petersen was temporarily paralyzed from the shoulders down. His companions helped stabilize him until the ambulance arrived. He had surgery that same night and is now improving noticeably. He has some sensation in his hands, and can lift one arm a bit, and twitch the other. He feels soreness and some pain in his back, and in this situation, feeling pain is good. The mission president also administered a blessing. But he may have to remain in Colorado for four to five months for physical therapy.

His medical care couldn't be better. The Denver/Colorado Springs area is home of the Swedish Medical Center, a Level One trauma center and ranks among the top Neuroscience programs. It is also designated as a Neuroscience Center of Excellence (COE). Adjacent to the hospital is the Craig Hospital, which is an internationally known leader of spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation. One of the world's best neurosurgeons operated on Elder Petersen.

There has been an outpouring of people wanting to help. The home of the missionary's parents, who are members of the Lakeland 2nd Ward in Rathdrum, Idaho, needs some work that they have not had the time or money to do, and modifications will likely be needed to made their home wheelchair accessible. But they have not yet solicited any financial contributions from the public. What the missionary and his family want most of all right now is prayer. The members, missionaries, and the mission Presidency of the Colorado Springs Mission and the Denver area have pulled together to coordinate housing, transportation, and everything else that the Petersen's might be in need of during their stay.

His family has set up the Zerin Petersen blog (to which I will also link on my sidebar under Information Sites) where you can learn more about his background (Eagle Scout with the Bronze, Gold, and Silver Palms) and to keep informed of his progress. Elder Petersen has a highly positive attitude towards his predicament. His Mission President said when he visited Zerin, that Zerin told him to "bring my shoes and pants - I am going to walk out of here." He also stated: "Zerin's smile and positive approach have been an inspiration to those visiting him. They come to lift his spirits and he raises their spirits". Zerin has never mentioned sadness or grief about his situation.

I believe Elder Petersen will walk again. But let's not presume upon the Lord's generosity; let's inform Him via prayer that his recovery is important to us.

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