Peery is regaining function at a much faster rate than others with similar spinal cord injuries, Moorad said.
“We pray to God that is going to continue and not stop,” Moorad said. “He is the most highly motivated kid. He believes in himself.
“He may stay at a wheelchair level for a long time to come. Only time will tell us what other recoveries are going to happen.”
Peery has a goal of walking by the end of the year. He still doesn't have much use of his hands but can wrap his arms around his children and squeeze and hug them.
“He believes he is going to walk again, and those are the people that actually do,” said Phil Williams, a fellow Oklahoma City police officer and friend.
What impresses Williams the most about his friend is that Peery always seems to have a smile on his face and be upbeat.
“I don't know that I would be that positive about it,” Williams said. “I don't know how I could be.”
Peery said he's heard similar comments from many of his friends, but he confesses it's not always true. There are dark days where he finds it difficult to be positive. Adding to the pain, Peery also is now going through a divorce.
But he tries to stay focused on his recovery and not dwell on the negatives in his life.
“You definitely have down days where you question why it happened,” he said. “You cry and cuss and scream, and then you get up the next day and you move on.
“It doesn't do me any good to be bitter and angry with the guys that did this to me. If I let myself become bitter and focus on the guys that did this to me, I only hurt myself.”
Attitude is everything
As a high school athlete, Peery wasn't gifted with great size but would play anywhere the coaches put him.
“I was a little vertically challenged for basketball,” Peery jokes.
At 5-6, Peery was a natural point guard. Despite his size, the basketball coaches at Mount St. Mary liked to practice Peery in the post position against the big men because of his toughness.
Peery would bang with them and give the big men more of a workout than anyone else on the team.
Football, however, was Peery's favorite sport even though he weighed just 155 pounds and was about as tall as a fireplug by comparison to most players. He played fullback and outside linebacker for the Rockets.
“We did a whole lot of sweeps and flares out for passes,” Peery said. “I was fairly quick. If I could get to the outside, I did pretty good.”
A favorite memory is the upset of Alva, one of the top-ranked teams in the state, during the Rockets' homecoming game in Peery's sophomore year.
“I think they were ranked No. 1. It was a huge win,” Peery said. “We went and played them the next year at Alva and they annihilated us. They definitely got us back.”
Now during therapy, Peery often thinks of the sign that was hanging in the football locker room at Mount Saint Mary. It read, “Attitude Is Everything.”
He also focuses on the lessons that Uncle Mike taught him in his summer basketball camps about how to shoot free throws by visualizing the ball going through the basket.
“I never thought I would use that thought process to learn how to walk again,” Peery said.
Peery said he often tries to visualize the movements his body is supposed to make in an attempt to regain muscle memory.
“He wants to be able to walk so he can be a better dad to his kids,” de la Garza said. “I am so proud to be in his family. He is a bulldog all the way. He will not give up.”
It's a wonderful life
Before Peery became a police officer, he held jobs as a loan officer, a financial investment adviser and chief financial officer for a medical clinic.
He gave up crunching numbers for catching bad guys because the life was more exciting and fulfilling to him. As a police officer, there were times when he truly believed he had made a difference in someone's life.
“That's what it's all about,” Peery said. “When you can go home and say, ‘I did something good tonight.'”
That hasn't changed even though Peery is in a wheelchair. In fact, Peery may be reaching more lives today than he ever did before as a police officer.
“He is still a cop, and he is still making a difference in people's lives every day in that wheelchair,” de la Garza said. “I can see how people are inspired by him.”
Peery recently received a letter from a stranger thanking him for saving his life.
The man's wife attended a fundraiser for Peery and bought for her husband a heart scan that had been donated by the Oklahoma Heart Hospital.
The heart scan detected the man was on the verge of a massive heart attack.
“In the letter, the man said, ‘You don't know me, but if it wasn't for you I wouldn't be here today,'” Peery said. “Had this not happened to me that would have never happened to him.
“There are so many things that have happened like that. You don't realize how many lives you touch. More than you would ever expect.”