Focused on Recovery, Not the Accident that Crushed His Fingers

Derek Petska was working at a construction site when the skidsteer he was operating flipped, crushing the fingers on both his hands. He was taken by ambulance to Aurora BayCare where he met with Dr. Jagdeep Sodhi, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hand injuries.

Dr. Sodhi was frank. “He took a look at my right hand and told me I’d probably lose all four fingers,” Derek recalls. “And he said the pinkie on my left was gone for sure.”

In the end, Dr. Sodhi was able to save Derek’s right pinkie and ring fingers, leaving him with a total of five fingers and both thumbs. (At attempt was made to save the middle finger on his right as well, but it was later amputated when blood failed to circulate.)

Derek’s initial surgery took about five hours, as doctors pinned bones together, repaired blood vessels, and grafted new skin onto both hands.  He spent a full week in the hospital and has had a few additional surgeries since then.

Five months after his accident, Derek is back at work, transitioning into a new office role. He attends physical therapy at Aurora BayCare three days a week, in addition to his own physical therapy regimen—three or four times a day, 25 minutes each session. The goal is to maximize mobility in his remaining fingers. 

When asked, Derek will admit that therapy is painful. But he’s focused on recovery, not the pain, and doesn’t want his therapists to hold back.

“They tailor the therapy for me, and I appreciate that. I like it straight. Tell me how it is,” Derek says, adding that he’s not interested in constant encouragement or sympathy either. “I’m not going to complain. I’m just going to do what I have to do.”

Not one to dwell on the accident, Derek is looking ahead, committed to finding new ways to enjoy his favorite sports, like hunting, bowling, and baseball. And if therapy is the way to get there, then Derek is all in.