Help bring Peter home

Published 9:15 pm Saturday, February 13, 2010

For more than two months, Suffolk native Peter Judkins has lain in a hospital bed in Hawaii — mostly unable to move, talk or eat. Family and friends are trying to raise $70,000 to bring him home.

Judkins, who has lived in Hawaii for about six years, walked into the Queens Medical Center in Honolulu on Dec. 9 complaining of back pain.

“He had been there before,” said mother Beverly Judkins. “They just would give him pain medication and send him away.”

This time, however, was worse. The hospital admitted him to treat his severe pain, but Judkins, 38, soon had a seizure and his heart quit beating.

When doctors revived him, Judkins was paralyzed from the neck down. A MRSA infection had caused an abscess next to his spine and cut off blood access to his spinal cord. Judkins now is a quadriplegic and is on a ventilator.

“We’ve been told it’s pretty much a permanent condition,” Beverly Judkins said.

It would be a devastating blow for anybody, but particularly for his son, father John Judkins said.

“Peter was pretty much a free spirit,” he said, adding that his son had left for Hawaii on the spur of the moment. “We didn’t really know why he went out there.”

Peter worked as an artist at beach resorts and worked on a fishing boat to make money, Judkins said. He called every few months.

“He was just doing his thing,” John Judkins said.

The family received a call on Dec. 10 from a doctor at the Hawaii hospital, telling them what had happened. A few days later, another call came — a doctor said Peter was now able to communicate, and said he didn’t want to live.

The Judkinses and two of their other children scraped together enough money for four plane tickets. They arrived in Hawaii and talked to Peter, who said he wanted to come back to Virginia.

Peter now is able to talk if the oxygen on the ventilator is lowered. He can shake his head for “no,” and move his eyebrows up and down for “yes.”

The Judkins family now is beginning the long process of trying to raise $70,000 to bring Peter home. The figure is an estimate of the costs to fly Peter by air ambulance, including intensive round-the-clock care.

“There’s a whole lot of things that have to happen,” John Judkins said.

So far, the family has raised about 13 percent of the needed cost. Benefit dinners are planned at La Hacienda Mexican restaurant in Surry, where Peter’s sister lives, on Feb. 28 and March 21 from 5 to 9 p.m. Fifty percent of proceeds from those dinners will go to the family.

The church Peter was attending in Hawaii also has donated a considerable amount, Beverly Judkins said.

“We just want to get him home.”

To make a donation, visit sites.google.com/site/bringpeterhome/.