In May 2020, then-18-year-old Evan Kowal — like many of us — was struggling to adjust to the pandemic. Tensions were running high. “My family and I were all stuck in the same house,” he says, “and my mental health wasn’t in a good place.” In a burst of frustration, Evan punched through a window. The glass cut through four tendons, a nerve and an artery in his left hand. He started losing blood, fast.
“I thought I’d killed myself by accident,” Evan says. “I was scared. I didn’t want to die.” His father put a tourniquet on Evan’s arm, and he was rushed to Huntington Hospital Trauma Center.
After Evan’s condition stabilized, he was transported to a surgical unit, where plastic surgeon Sanjeev N. Puri, MD, quickly got to work. He stitched Evan’s tendons and transferred a nerve and artery from Evan’s leg to his hand. The surgery went perfectly.
When he awoke, Evan couldn’t move his hand. “I was freaked out,” he says. An avid water polo player and mountain climber, Evan was terrified he would never again get to do the things he loved.
Evan felt discouraged — until he spoke with Dr. Puri. “He found the perfect balance between conveying the gravity of my situation and giving me hope for recovery,” he says. “The whole team was great. The nurses were so comforting; I felt like they were always looking out for me.”
After three or four days in the hospital, Evan was well enough to go home — but his healing journey was not over. A few weeks later, he returned to Huntington Hospital for a skin graft, also performed by Dr. Puri. He then had to take months of occupational therapy.
Evan also took time to address the emotional challenges that led to his accident. “I’d recently begun going to therapy,” he says, “but the injury forced me to address my mental health issues in other ways too. I began taking medication and opening up to my friends and relatives. I learned to stop feeling embarrassed about my problems.”
Today, Evan is doing well. He is a sophomore at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is playing the best water polo of his life. “I’d thought, ‘best case scenario, I’ll be a diminished player,’ but I had the fourth highest number of assists in team history this year,” he says.
Evan gives immense credit to Dr. Puri. “In eight hours of work, Dr. Puri changed the entire course of my life, and I’m infinitely grateful,” Evan says. In fact, he inspired Evan to consider a career in medicine. “Dr. Puri is honest with patients, while still keeping them motivated. He’s the kind of doctor I want to be.”
To learn more about our lifesaving trauma care, visit: www.huntingtonhospital.org/trauma