Boater’s tragedy prompts outpouring of support

Boaters are known as a loosely knit geographic group—and a tight community always willing to help one of their own.

So when Seattle Sail and Power Squadron member Brad Peterson recently lost his leg due to an infection, fellow boaters came to his aid. Squadron members joined forces with Peterson’s friends from church and the Knights of Columbus to collect money to buy him a prosthetic leg and help pay his mounting medical costs.

So far, the joint efforts have raised about $6,000 toward the $9,500 prosthesis. Peterson’s church, Our Lady of Fatima in Seattle, is paying for him to stay at an assisted living facility until the end of April. A Sail and Power Squadron member who’s going cruising for a few months has offered his house for Peterson to stay in while he gets used to his prosthesis, after which Peterson plans to move back onboard his 38-foot 1964 Chris Craft, moored at a marina on the Seattle ship canal.

Squadron member Cathy McDonald has known Peterson since he joined the group almost a decade ago. He was previously named the squadron’s skipper of the year, she said, served on its auditing committee and has been a positive presence at squadron events over the years.

“Brad is just wonderful,” McDonald said. “He’s very much a glass half full guy. He always has a smile on his face and a good word to say to people at all times. He’s just the nicest fellow.”

Mark Abadir, who is in the Knights of Columbus with Peterson, said Peterson is involved in various community efforts and is always willing to help others. “He’s one of those people who always try to think, ‘What can we do for the community? What more can we do?’” Abadir said.

“He’s always just very involved. As a result, people just love him. When they heard he was in trouble, it was ‘How can we help?’”

The trouble for Peterson began at the end of January, just as the self-employed accountant was preparing for a busy tax season. He had a blister on his left foot but had been soaking it and taking care of it. Peterson had a heart attack 15 years ago and a few years after that was diagnosed as a borderline diabetic. He’d been paying close attention to his health for several years, improving his diet, losing weight and exercising regularly. He figured he was doing everything right.

But on a Friday night in January, he noticed two little purple spots on his big toe. He went to the doctor Monday morning and was immediately sent to the hospital. Tests showed he had a severe infection related to his diabetes. Doctors had to amputate his left leg below the knee.

“At that point,” Peterson said, “it was a live or die situation.”

The infection and its aftermath have not just been physically traumatic but also financially devastating. Peterson has been without medical insurance since 1998—after, he says, his insurance expired and he was quoted an annual fee of more than $35,000 to have it reinstated. Peterson and his wife instead started saving money for any unexpected medical costs and hoped for the best.

“It’s a fearful situation,” said Peterson, 58. “You feel very unsecure and you’re getting older and you’re just praying that your health stays intact. That’s why I changed my lifestyle. I was trying to do everything right.”

Peterson hasn’t yet received all his medical bills related to the recent surgery but said the total is already well over $20,000. To make matters worse, he had to turn away almost all of his tax clients this year, essentially losing an entire season of work.

“I’m basically out of business this year,” he said. “There’s no income coming in right now. I generate it, and I’m not doing a good job at that. All of a sudden it’s become really, really tough. Things have changed for me dramatically.”

Despite his difficulties, Peterson said he’s been heartened by the good wishes and visits he’s received. Students at Our Lady of Fatima held a bake sale to raise money for him, and have sent close to 200 cards and letters. One child promised to pray for Peterson during Lent. Another reminded him to be kind to his nurses.

“I’ve been getting all kinds of direction,” Peterson said, chuckling.

Peterson is scheduled to be fitted with his prosthetic leg this week. Then begins the long process of physical therapy, adjusting to a new definition of mobility and gradually restoring a sense of normalcy to his life. He hopes to become active in the squadron again and is looking forward to moving back onboard his boat. He’s doing his best to remain positive.

“I’ve still got a long road to go but I’m doing okay,” Peterson said. “All the love and attention from my friends, and the prayers—that’s gotten me through this. Community is so important for everybody.”

Peterson’s friends are holding a spaghetti fundraising dinner at Our Lady of Fatima on May 15 with a raffle and auction to help pay for his prosthesis and living expenses while he recovers. To donate an item or attend the dinner, call Mark Abadir at 206.282.0499 or Cathy McDonald at 206.617.7427.

An account has been set up at Bank of America to help Peterson. Checks can be made payable to “Friends of Brad Peterson” or sent to Mark Abadir at 3636 37th Ave. W., Seattle, 98199.

One Response to Boater’s tragedy prompts outpouring of support

  1. Joan Banich October 1, 2010 at 11:34 pm #

    So sorry to hear that Brad has passed away. He was such a wonderful, caring person. NIce to know that he was able to receive some care back from so many people through all this tragedy. We will miss him dearly. Visits to Seattle just won’t be the same without seeing him at the Bay Cafe or the Magnolia Tully’s.

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