A two-time para-archery world champion from Jaffray is gearing up to compete in the Parapan American Games in Toronto in August.
Kevin Evans, who shoots a bow with only one arm, is part of the Canadian contingency, which also includes teammates Alex Denys of Douro-Drummer, ON, Bob Hudson of Leonville, Sask., and Karen Van Nest of Wiarton, ON.
Back in 2000, Evans lost his arm on a seismic rig while working up north in the oil patch.
While he was training a new hire, his arm got wrapped up in the drill pipe and was ripped clean off at the shoulder.
“There was a chunk of white bone sticking out about four inches long and no meat,” Evans said.
The para-archer said he remembered going around the drill one or two times before the force of the machine knocked him out.
“When I woke up I was on the ground about 20 feel from the rig. It had cleaned every stitch of clothes off of me except my underwear and socks,” he said. “It knocked me out right away.”
Evans said once he regained consciousness, he thought about a similar incident that had occurred prior to this to a guy he knew who was working near the same area. The worker was doing maintenance on a machine when his arm got caught and was ripped off at the elbow.
The man was working closer to a town than Evans had been, and the ambulance was called right away.
“(The other workers) said the response team was there within five minutes, and he was dead at the door, he bled to death,” he said. “When I first noticed that my arm was gone I just looked over and I kind of knew that if it was spurting blood, then they wouldn’t be able to do nothing for me.”
When he came to, Evans went to shut the machine off, as his helper was in shock.
“I just walked over and went to shut the rig off and that’s when I seen my arm was on the ground,” he said, adding at this point, his coworkers were yelling at him to sit back on the ground.
The paramedics were on the phone as Evans’ coworkers tried to stop his shoulder from bleeding.
As the job site wasn’t equipped with an abundance of first aid material, Evans instructed his assistant to grab the extra coveralls from his truck, which they used to pad his shoulder until paramedics arrived.
Since the injury took his “good” hand, Evans had to relearn how to do even the most basic tasks.
“I was a lefty, I’m not no more,” he said with a laugh. “I’m a righty now.”
The para-archer said he can do lots of things today with his right hand, but things like writing or throwing a ball are still rather diffuclut.
“Your brain knows what to do, but to get your hand to do it is different.”
The loss of his arm wasn’t the only injury Evans sustained that day on the oil patch.
While paramedics were working on him, trying to look after his shoulder and put an intravenous in his arm, he became aware of pain in his leg, so mentioned it to one of the paramedics.
“He pulled the blanket down and goes, ‘Oh my God!’ and I go, ‘What?’ and he goes, ‘Your leg’s busted’,” Evans said, adding his bone was sticking out the bottom of his ankle, severing his Achilles tendon.
“So, it was the left arm and the right ankle. It wasn’t a very good day for me, I should have stayed in bed that day.”
Archery has always been a passion for Evans, and he wasn’t going to let a missing arm stop him from doing what he loved.
Only four days after getting injured, Evans was in contact with an organization in the United States about how to shoot a bow with one arm.
“These guys were shooting them with their teeth,” he said, adding he tried this method but didn’t like it.
He had a copy of a hunting magazine with him featuring a man who developed a brace to shoot a bow with one arm, and after getting out of the hospital, he met with him and the man took a mold of his shoulder and developed a brace for him.
The brace allowed him to shoot with one arm, and he went on to win a number of medals in para-archery, including a gold at the 2011 Guadalajara Parapan Am Games, and the World Archery Championship titles in both 2007 and 2009.
He now builds braces for others who need them.
“There’s so many of them around the world right now, it’s unbelievable,” Evans said, adding one person he made a brace for was an 11-year-old boy he met back in 2011.
The boy, Sullivan, had all but lost the movement in the upper part of the left side of his body.
When the boy heard about the successes Evans was able to achieve with one arm, his family was in contact with the archer and he made a visit to the boy’s home.
“I ended up building him a little brace,” Evans said, adding the boy sent him a video when he shot his first arrow with his brace. “I mean, the smile on this kid’s face was unbelievable. So that was pretty cool.”
What really got to Evans was when Sullivan’s older sister came up to him and gave him a hug and a kiss.
“She said, ‘I just wanted to say thank you, you changed by brother’s life’,” he said.
Having travelled the world with his sport and being given the opportunity to help others, Evans said he’s often asked if he could go back in time, would he go through it all again.
“Financially, I know I would have been way better off if I was still in the oil patch, but for life experience and stuff like that, then this has been a different path. Not that I’d recommend it to anyone, but if stuff happens, there’s always something else.”
He said he’s still able to do everything, just differently from before, and he approaches life with a positive attitude.
“There’s no sense moaning and groaning about it.”
The Parapan Am Games run from Aug. 7-15 and after that, Evans will be attending the World Championships in Germany later in the month.