HICKORY – After losing an arm in a boating accident last year, Jeff Beaver was unsure if life would ever feel normal again.
“I would find myself dwelling on the fact that I had lost an arm,” he said. “Then I would think about my daughter, Samantha, who celebrated her 16th birthday while I was in the hospital. I knew I needed to be positive and strong, if not for myself, for her.”
The accident, which occurred on Lake James last September, resulted in doctors in Charlotte amputating Beaver’s right arm at the elbow.
A year later at Catawba Valley Medical Center’s Inpatient Rehabilitation Reunion, Beaver was a perfect example of courage and perseverance as he played a few songs on his guitar using a specialized prosthetic.
“I can do almost everything I could before now,” Beaver said.
Two days after the amputation, OrthoCarolina surgeons Dr. Glenn Gaston and Dr. Bryan Loeffler performed targeted muscle reinnervation (TMR) surgery to preserve the function of Beaver’s upper arm.
Gaston and Loeffler are nationally renowned amputee surgeons and pioneers in TMR. As a result of their incredible work, Beaver can successfully control a prosthetic arm using nerve impulses sent directly from his brain.
“Even though most of my arm is gone, my nerves are communicating to my prosthetic arm,” Beaver said. “I was extremely fortunate to have two of the best hand surgeons in the country, who not only helped preserve my function, but also prevented me from having the phantom pain that many amputees have.”
The next step after surgery was rehabilitation, so Beaver was admitted into CVMC’s inpatient rehabilitation, where he spent a little more than a week.
“He’s a star,” said Jenny O’Neil, Beaver’s physical therapist.
O’Neil’s job was to get Beaver ready for a prosthetic.
“I remember my physical therapist, Jenny O’Neil, getting me behind the wheel of my car within the first week I was there,” Beaver said. “I didn’t feel confident, but Jenny just looked at me and said, ‘Jeff, you’ve got this.’”
It wasn’t long before Beaver was playing the guitar again, a hobby he’s had since he was 13.
“The day I got to play the guitar again, I was ecstatic,” he said.
Beaver’s wife, Ruth-Ann Beaver, said it was a blessing to be closer to home, which was Morganton.
At the reunion Tuesday, Beaver’s wife and daughter Samantha were there to support him and thank the staff at CVMC in their role in giving Beaver his life back.
“The entire staff was great at motivating me and encouraging me to be positive about adapting to my new normal,” he said. “I can do almost everything I could before now.”
Before the accident, Beaver was in a band called Winter Bush. After the accident, they changed their name to One Armed and Dangerous.
“He’s the one armed, and they’re the dangerous,” Samantha joked.
While his band did not join him at the reunion, he wore a T-shirt with their name, which was a gift from Samantha.
“As time passed, I started noticing there are now days and even weeks when I don’t think about not having an arm,” he said.