Chad Peery's pain can be seen in the tears that well up in the eyes of his mother, Jan.
“It's been a nightmare” she said.
But Oklahomans battle nightmares with compassion and love.
“The support has been unbelievable,” Jan Peery said. “From the moment we got to the hospital, it has been unbelievable.”
Her son, Oklahoma City police officer Chad Peery, 34, suffered a broken neck late Feb. 15 after he tried to escort three men out of Dan O'Brien's Public House in northwest Oklahoma City, police reported. He was off-duty at the time and had been watching an Oklahoma City Thunder game on television.
Bartenders who knew Peery was a police officer sought his help because of reports the men were trying to start fights. The husband and father of four is paralyzed from the shoulders down, with some movement in his arms.
Three men have been accused in a felony charge of intentionally assaulting Peery.
Throughout her life, Jan has helped or watched fellow Oklahomans help those who are at the lowest point in their lives.
Jan grew up watching her parents help through community involvement. She has continued with that sense of giving to others, including contributing to food drives and helping a pregnant woman whose car had stalled.
Having been with the YWCA Oklahoma City for 15 years, including seven as its chief executive officer, she's been there when staff members held a child who had just seen his mother beaten, or comforted a child who was trembling after trying to pull his violent father off his mother.
Jan remembers those times when doctors and attorneys have volunteered their services to help domestic violence and/or sexual assault victims who had no resources of their own.
This outpouring of kindness has come full circle, and the hand of support now rests on Jan's shoulder, as well as those of her family.
“This one young man has touched so many lives even in his struggle to live,” she said.
“We had many nurses tell us they were quite inspired watching him fight even if it just meant being able to sit up, to cough, anything. He did it and is very strong and brave.
“I've told him he's my hero.”
Oklahomans overwhelmingly have responded. They've offered prayers. They've held bake sales, a church breakfast and sold bracelets that read “Defeat is never an option.”
The Officer Down Foundation, which has helped many law enforcement members and families in such a time of need, presented a check to the Peery family on March 11. The Henry Hudson's Pub, 3509 NW 58, along with the help of some Oklahoma City, The Village and Edmond police officers and their wives, conducted auctions March 12 and raised $40,270.
Dan O'Brien's held a fundraiser. Mount St. Mary High School, where Chad graduated in 1995, has scheduled a fundraising auction for April 8 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum with all proceeds going to Chad, his wife, Stephanie, and their
“It's hard to be on the receiving end,” Jan said, “but we want everyone to know that all they have done is so appreciated. Our foremost concern is being with Chad, but we try to make it to as many of these as we can — because we are very thankful.”
Jan kept thinking someone would wake her from this nightmare. That hasn't happened.
“As a mom, one of the hardest things you ever go through is seeing your child hurt, and that doesn't go away when they've grown up,” she said. “So watching him from the first night in so much pain that he didn't want me in there ...
“He didn't want me to see him in that pain, and it was hard to not be in there with him.”
She knows they are not alone, that others are suffering in this. Members of the law enforcement community have been there at the hospital.
“They're hurting as bad as we are; he is part of their family,” Jan said. “It's a different family, but it is very much a family. They depend on each other for their lives day to day. So it is probably as strong a bond in many ways as we as have.”
It was about two weeks before Jan could find the strength and time to start reading the hundreds and hundreds of emails from friends and total strangers, including some people her son had helped as an officer. She soon realized that for so many people, this was personal.
“We've had several people who have known him since grade school who said he was always a kid who stood up for the underdog,” Jan said.
An officer who was paralyzed in the line of duty visited them.
And she was given a bracelet that reads “Never give up” by the mother of Katie Lawson, an Oklahoma City police officer shot multiple times Aug. 29, 2010, after helping a county sheriff's deputy respond to a drunken driving call.
“People are amazing,” Jan said. “They just keep finding their own way to reach out.”
How to help
The Chad Peery Benefit Fund
Municipal Employees Credit Union
c/o: Chad Peery Donation Fund
3561 W Memorial Road
Oklahoma City, OK 73134