By KEVIN CHIRI
Tammany West news
SLIDELL – Joanna Evans said it took several days to get over the shock of the ultrasound she and her husband saw in the second trimester of her first pregnancy.
“Nothing had been unusual in the pregnancy, then one day we had an ultrasound and our doctor said our baby was missing a portion of his right arm,” she said. “They still don’t know why such a thing happened.”
But thanks to their Catholic faith and a talk with their priest, Joanna and Beau Evans knew within a couple of days they would be OK. And after watching 3-year-old Teagan Evans since he was born, Joanna admits she is still amazed at the way her son has adapted to his situation.
“If you look at Teagan, and see the way he figures out ways to do anything, you would be amazed,” she said. “He is a phenomenal boy.”
But one thing was still going to be a problem for Teagan and his Madisonville family, and that’s where a national, non-profit organization known as Inner Wheel Foundation came to the rescue.
Inner Wheel took on the task 20 years ago of helping children obtain prosthetic upper body limbs, particularly helping out with the expensive cost to get a new limb every year to two—something positively needed as the child grew, and something most insurance companies would not pay for.
And for Teagan, it was a St. Tammany Parish division of Inner Wheel that stepped in when he was almost nine months old, helping him get a prosthetic arm that was vital at that time.
“For babies in that situation, the concern in not having both arms is that it creates balance problems, which affects their ability to learn how to stand and walk,” Slidell Inner Wheel member Nancy O’Bryan said.
Inner Wheel continues to raise money nationally, including the local division which hosts a February Foundation Walk that will be held on Saturday, Feb. 22 at Camp Salmen Park in Slidell. They are asking for pledges of $10 for every mile that members walk, and will accept any donations that will be used to help children get prosthetic arms.
For Joanna and her husband, the biggest problem after Teagan was born was simply knowing where to turn, and what to do next. That’s where groups such as the Inner Wheel, and later from the Shriner’s Hospital, offered such invaluable assistance.
“When we saw the ultrasound, of course we were shocked, upset,” she said. “But within a couple of days, after being comforted with a talk we had with our priest, we were ready to move forward. The difficult part was that we couldn’t have many questions answered until he was born.”
Teagan’s right arm is normal down to his elbow, but then the arm did not grow in an expected way and ends with the start of a digit that is his thumb, while two other spots appear to be where two fingers were ready to grow. However, he has learned how to use the thumb in an incredible number of ways to do almost anything.
“We were not sure what to do at first, but my husband’s aunt knew a friend who was in Inner Wheel,” Joanna said. “They helped direct us and we found the help we needed.”
Teagan obtained his first prosthetic arm, but was later deemed to be better off without one since he adapted so incredibly well to his situation.
“We went to the Shriner’s Hospital and the experts there said he was doing so many amazing things, and adapting so well, that he didn’t need one for now,” Joanna said. “When he gets older he may want one to play sports, or just so he won’t look different—that’s all up to him.”
As parents, Joanna and Beau have helped their son be strong through his difficult situation.
“We don’t want him treated differently and we’ve learned that we should change the situation he faces, don’t try to change the child,” she explained.
One example of that was in fitting a bike for him. Teagan’s grandfather welded an extra extension on the right handlebar so Teagan could reach it without bending over.
“He’s truly been amazing,” Teagan’s mom said. “The other day he climbed a rock wall by himself—it was such a great accomplishment.”
Joanna said she tries to put herself in his situation to learn how to accomplish new things, at times by holding her arm behind her back and trying to figure out ways to do things.
“The latest one I haven’t figured out is how to tie a shoe,” she said with a laugh. “But Teagan will figure out how to do it.”
The couple had a second child 20 months ago with no similar problems, while Beau supports his family by operating his own landscape company—Beau Evans Landscaping.
Slidell’s Inner Wheel group was formed in 1988 by founding members Sylvia Stanton, Brucie Kopfler, Linda Smith, Denise Stanton, Iris Ladner, Noelie Fitzgerald, Joyce Frances, Barbara Vivien, Brenda Case, and Pomery Lowery. They have contributed annually to the national program that has fitted 56 children since 2004, with each prosthetic limb costing from $6,000 to $10,000.
“This is changing children’s lives,” O’Bryan said. “It’s not just about helping a child be able to do things, but they don’t feel different if they have a prosthetic arm, and that’s especially important from a young age to growing older.”
Anyone who can donate to the cause can call President Betty Rose at 863-3418, or mail contributions to Inner Wheel, c/o 525 Oak Alley Avenue, Pearl River, La., 70452.