July 04, 2014
Marine Sgt. John Peck is one of very few quadruple amputees to survive the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now he is preparing for his next mission: an experimental double-arm transplant that will give him, in part, his freedom back.
“No more prosthetics,” Peck told Fox News. “I’m going to get cadaver arms from a donor, and they’re going to do a 16-hour surgery with 12-16 doctors and reattach bone, using titanium plates, reattaching nerves, blood vessels, tendons, and muscles.”
He is not the first quadruple amputee to undergo such a surgery, which remains experimental. Brendan Marrocco, a soldier injured in Iraq, went through the same transplant surgery nearly two years ago. He is now doing pull-ups.
“I’m a very proud person. Very independent,” Peck said, while holding his 2-year-old son in the lap of his wheelchair.
“For me to ask for an ounce of help, I’m stubborn. You can ask her,” he said, pointing to his fiancee Stacey. “I am a mule. It’s ‘can you help me open this?’ and I kind of put my head down — it’s a jar. Something as simple as a jar. Or a wrapper on a cereal bar, something like that. It’s nearly impossible for me to open it.”
Peck was injured in Helmand province on May 24, 2010.”
We were doing a knock-and-greet mission saying, ‘We’re the Marines. We’re here to protect you. We’re here to help you,’” Peck recalled as he retold the story of that day. “Everything was fine. I turned around to my sergeant to say, ‘Hey, everything’s good.’ Took a step with my left leg and just a loud sound. I was instantaneously a triple amputee.”
Peck went on to describe in vivid detail what happened next.
“All I could feel was this immense amount of pain and burning. I came back to and I could feel the rotor wash from the helicopter.” He said to himself, “I don’t want to die here. I can’t die here. This is Afghanistan. This place sucks.”
He wakes up two-and-a-half months later in Bethesda Naval Hospital. He finds out he flat-lined three times, was pronounced dead once, and had more than 28 surgeries.
“It was just — a few dark months,” Peck recalled.
It got worse before it got better.
His wife at the time was by his bedside, but not for long. He says she emptied his bank account of $30,000 and eventually left him.
“I did not like anyone. There was a lot of depression. It was very dark,” Peck said. “I told psychiatrists to get away from me. I told doctors to get away from me. I just didn’t care.”
At some point he decided to lift himself out of the darkness. He went skydiving, and scuba diving, and decided to live again.