The gift of a second chance
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 11, 2014 1:50 AM
Dorothy Evans helps her husband, Durwood, with physical therapy exercises at home. This week will be "Durwood Evans Week" at Faith Christian Academy and Faith Free Will Baptist Church.
Durwood Evans' heart is full of gratitude and love, and not just because of the heart transplant he received in March.
He was born with a transposition of the great vessels, a heart defect where the two major vessels that carry blood away form the heart are switched.
"I guess for me, I was born with issues. I have always had issues," he said. "It never kept me from doing what I wanted.
"In my mind, I just left it to God and I'm going to get better."
He has undergone numerous surgeries and procedures over the years, including receiving a pacemaker in 2002. Early on, he had been advised that a transplant could be an option in his future.
The complications have been alarming at times -- including the night two years ago when he went into ventricular tachycardia (rapid heartbeat) and passed out at church, Faith Free Will Baptist Church.
"He basically dropped dead in church," said his wife, Dorothy. "I thought his pacemaker had stopped.
"There were two nurses. One started CPR, the other did mouth-to-mouth, until EMS arrived. They shocked him several times, got him stable enough to move him to Wayne Memorial Hospital."
Evans was put into a coma to stabilize him enough to life-flight him to Duke. Except for a brief break, he wound up being in a coma for 11 days.
Holding vigil in a hospital room, not knowing if he would make it through the night, receiving lots of "overwhelming information" at times, never gets any easier, Mrs. Evans said.
Fortunately, in early March, after two years on the transplant list, the call came that a match had been found and he could undergo the operation.
"I was jumping up and down screaming. We were so excited," Mrs. Evans said. "We got the call at 11:20 at night, so it's in the 11 o'clock hour.
"His (Durwood's) birthday is April 11 and our son was 11 years old. So there was a lot of 11s that kind of let us know that this was meant to be."
The biggest battle afterward was possible rejection of the organ. So far, though, everything has been fine in that regard.
That is not to say there haven't been other obstacles. While her husband was hospitalized, Mrs. Evans' brother, a double amputee and diabetic for whom she was caregiver, died; and her mother-in-law was recently diagnosed with cancer.
Eight weeks since the transplant, the couple are now comfortably back at their home, which is nestled on the family farm near Princeton.
Mrs. Evans, who works with the state, has taken leave to help with her husband's recovery. He is on short-term disability from his job at Balfour Beatty Rail. The couple's son, Luke, is a sixth-grader at Faith Christian Academy.
Home health nurses check on Evans a few times a week and he receives physical therapy to remedy difficulties walking.
After spending the last two birthdays in the hospital, 47-year-old Evans said he is glad to be back home.
His wife admits that the struggle had started to take its toll.
"I didn't know if I was going to make it and had had times where I doubted. I had lost my hope. We had strangers that we talked to in the waiting room that would tell us their story and their story would bring back our hope," she said, a catch in her voice as she wipes away a tear. "It was hard. We didn't know what was going to happen. (With this) you don't know what will happen from one day to the next. It can happen so fast."
In some respects, though, the challenges faced by the couple have actually been a blessing in disguise, they say.
"Prior to him having all this two and one-half years ago, our marriage was not great," Mrs. Evans said. "All this happening to him saved our marriage."
Handing his wife a tissue, Evans credits God with bringing them to this point.
"There's no way that I could leave him during a time that he needed me most. No way. It's not even an option," his wife said. "We have people even now, they're like, 'I'm proud of you sticking by him.' That's what you're supposed to do. The only way I'm able to do it is God. He has given me strength that you can't explain. ... And He makes no mistakes. He has a perfect plan."
The family's church and Faith Christian Academy are holding a series of fundraisers to help defray medical costs. May 12-16 has been designated "Durwood Evans Week."
All classes at the school will be collecting money and the school is selling wristbands. Bake sales will be held Monday through Wednesday of that week. There will be a silent cake auction Wednesday evening and a special offering will be collected during the service.
Breakfast for Durwood will be Tuesday from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in the fellowship hall. Tickets are $5 each. A grilled chicken plate lunch is planned for Thursday from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m., take-out only, for $6 each.
On Friday, May 16, a schoolwide assembly will take place to present a check to Evans.