Friday, May 25, 2007

Count since July 09

I read over the blog -the last chapters were darker than I remembered. Being a mute quadriplegic is definitely no picnic, but some positive things have been happening to make the situation a lot more bearable. The turnaround in my life began with the vineyard. As it grew, so did our lives. About the same time they planted our vines, a friend, Allyson Campa, suggested we write a blog. This was really helpful, because it served as a form of release, which I desperately needed. We had tried counseling, but it didn't work for me because I am mute. No counselor was patient enough to hear my story. The blog is different because no matter how long it takes us to write, a normal person can read it at normal speed.

Shortly thereafter, another friend, Katie Roper, told the local press told the paper about vineyard, and they were very taken by our story. They ended up writing a two part article on us which won some kind of award. Sometime about then, I went to a class reunion, and Allyson Campa wrote a blurb about me in the class newsletter. A guy named Jim Shea read it and said his employer made a product that could help me. It was called the Dynavox and was essentially a mobile speech computer. It is slow but allows me to talk directly to people without my wife interpreting. Dynavox also did a short film on us-we got to be movie stars for a day! See .

Meanwhile the whole Laserfinger thing was taking off. Laserfinger as an idea had its roots back in Montana when someone gave me an environmental control unit that originally cost five thousand dollars. At first it was amazing but we soon learned that it was so complicated we needed to hire a technician to make a phone call. We used it about three times and then never used it again. I envisioned a device like my headtracker that would allow me to switch on lights just by looking at them. I had no idea how to build it. All ideas lay dormant until I returned to California, and an old friend, Chris Tacklind, visited. He listened to my ideas, then said it sounded like a good project for his robotics class. A few months passed, and then Chris announced that they not only had a solution, but they had gotten funding from MIT to prototype it. About a year later MIT invited me to Boston to demonstrate what the team had invented.

I thought airfare was included until two weeks before the trip. A friend offered air miles, but they didn't end up working out. Out of desperation I called another friend who often did school fundraisers and asked for help. Imagine my surprise when she emailed the very next day and said she knew a family willing to help by getting tickets for our whole family!

MIT went extremely well, and they even gave us an award for inspiration, and named the annual award after our family. For the whole story see

See also, which references many articles, including one by he AP, which showed up all around the world. After MIT, we went on to St. Louis, where we saw old friend. After a week's rest at home we went to Lake Tahoe in California for a family reunion. They took me to a car museum, through a gold mine and on a boat ride. All in all, it was a great summer.

It was capped off when my classmates raised the money to build us an accessible shower -it has been great for me as now only one person can give me a shower. Some other friends offered their design services, and a contractor built it.

Two more things hapened recently. First, Jane and Fogarty Vineyards harvested our grapes and made wine. We made custom labels with a picture of our backyard at sunset -Hevans Vineyards. Then our church called and wondered if we would donate half of a case to their charity auction. We did, and bundled them with a Napa Valley wine train ride. It raised $5000and we got a standing ovation. A local newspaper covered it - see

Then, the very next week, a friend, Rick Zirpolo, took me in his racecar at Infineon Raceway. This was the real deal -we went 125 miles per hour! I think I was the first quadriplegic the track had ever seen!

All in all, about twenty five articles have been written about me -google Henry Evans, quadriplegic. This Christmas I got a card from someone I had not heard from in twenty five years. They included a poem I wrote twenty five years ago. I thought it would be a fitting way to end this chapter:


When gray light spreads its heavy gloom
Upon your worn and weary face;
When the path ahead is long and steep
And your spirit wants a slower pace;
When your feet can't follow one another,
When your soul has reach'ed dark despair;
Fall not into the hand of darkness
Think not the thought that no one cares.
Do not succomb to evil's quest
And ponder not on pain untold
For gloomy, grey and deep sad thoughts
Can only lead to sorrow cold.

Sometimes living takes on shades
Of amber brown and cloudy skies,
But know that when the sun 'gain dawns,
You'll see the world with clear bright eyes.
Think then not of foregone grief
Or of the past days' lonely grip,
For each new dawn is golden joy
Which sweetens sadness with a sip.
The sun will shine and bring to you
Its warm and fresh and happy grin;
You'll grab the world with all your arms
And hug its happiness again.

Henry Evans, 1981