SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Grizzly victim marries woman who saved his life
Anchorage Daily News


August 21, 2007

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- In a rare wedding at the Alaska Native Medical Center, Shawn Evan rolled down an aisle in a wheelchair to marry the health aide who saved his life after a savage grizzly mauling in Western Alaska.

The broad-shouldered 32-year-old said thoughts of his longtime girlfriend, Lydia Jackson, and their two young sons kept him alive during the agonizing skiff ride back to the village of Shaktoolik after the attack on July 31. They married Aug. 17.

Freezing because he'd lost so much blood, with only muscle, skin and a crude splint holding his shattered legs together below the knees, Evan struggled to stay awake.

"There was twice that my heart felt weird, different. I felt it slow down, like it was losing its pumping power," he said.

After villagers rushed him to the clinic in a truck bed, Jackson, 31, directed a desperate effort to keep him alive.

Jackson, now Lydia Evan, slid intravenous needles into Shawn's pale arms to replace lost fluid. She cut off his blood-soaked jeans and rubber boots. Blood gushed to the floor.

As he moaned, she cleaned his splintered bones and set them back in place as best she could with a proper splint.

"Everyone thought I would panic but I didn't," Lydia said Friday after the wedding. "I knew if we didn't stabilize him and get him to a hospital quickly, he wouldn't be with us today."

The couple has been together 10 years, since Evan permanently moved from California to the Inupiat village of 200 where he'd spent summers hunting and berry-picking to supply food for his grandmother.

Lydia has wanted to get married since she was pregnant with their first child, Ethan, now 7. But Shawn was stubborn and refused to pop the question even after Marcus was born 18 months ago, he said.

That changed at the hospital. Doctors told him he might lose a foot, even a leg, but constant support from Lydia and others lifted his spirits. He knew it was time to take life seriously, starting with marriage.

"After the first four or five days at the hospital I realized how lucky, how blessed I am. All the things I have. Good boys, my parents, Lydia. It all just kind of hit me."

Evan and two hunting partners, family friends Michael Rock, 23, and A.J. Nakarak, 17, traveled far up the Shaktoolik River the night of July 31. With moose season scheduled to open in a few hours, Evan wanted to bring one home for his grandmother.

The hunters were several miles from the village when they saw a bear swimming in the river about 300 yards away. Rock and Nakarak wanted the bear's meat and claws, so they shot it with their rifles, Evan said.

The bear bolted out of the water and in seconds had dashed up a steep hill.

After traveling about a mile, Evan spotted the bear in willows, about 90 feet up the hill. He fired his .475 magnum pistol, hitting the bear. It rolled down end over end before crashing against willows, Evan said.

"We figured that would be it, but his head popped out of the willows," said Evan. "He came barreling downhill after me ..."

Evan turned to run, but the grizzly was too close. The bear's powerful jaws crushed his right calf. He isn't sure how his left leg was injured.

His hunting partners on either side of the bear "were shooting away" with their rifles until the bear died, he said.

The pain was devastating, said Evan.

His partners cut belt straps from their rain gear and tied off Evan's legs below the knees to stop the bleeding. They fashioned a splint by strapping his legs to a large branch and dragged him down the steep slope to the boat.

At the clinic, Evan remembers Lydia being calm.

Medics from Nome flew him to Anchorage.

Doctors needed several surgeries over two weeks to screw and pin his bones back together.

Early last week, Evan asked her to marry him. They agreed to do it at the hospital while family, including Evan's mother from California, Stella Moore, was in town.

While he heals, the newlyweds plan to live in California to be near his mom. A sometimes-construction worker in Shaktoolik, Evan hopes to become a teacher, and pay for Lydia's medical school.

"No more wasting time," he said.


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Ketchikan, Alaska