His Passion for Hunting Has Never Waned
A few weeks after graduating from Willamette University College of Law, Powell tried to sleep off a headache after a strenuous workout on the weight bench. At some point, possibly because of the exertion, he suffered the dural sinus thrombosis. Powell aspirated in his sleep and was without oxygen for an undetermined period. His former girlfriend found him and administered CPR until the ambulance arrived, probably saving his life.
Told by a neurologist their son would never again function normally and might not regain consciousness, Ronald and Nancy Powell found a new neurologist and buried themselves in research. They assembled a won’t-take-no team to help even out the emotional roller-coaster ride to recovery. Nancy ran the rehabilitation ferry service from their rural home to centers and specialists stretching from Canby, Ore., to Bakersfield, Calif. Ron maintained his family medical practice and commuted by plane and car, often living and cooking in their camper.
Powell’s eyes were the first to show a little life. Then there was a muscle twitch here, a flinch there; every movement was a small victory until his fingers and left hand moved. Finally, muttering turned to words. Slowly, inexorably, the team of three beat back numerous brushes with death and disappointment.
Powell is home now, actively participating in his own rehabilitation. He recalls all of his law school years and childhood memories.
By fall 2007, Powell, an avid hunter since the sixth grade, could shoot a rifle again with some help from a contraption Ron cobbled together. But they couldn’t pull it all together that deer season. The following year, Ron mined the Internet for a special shooting cradle that rides on their four-wheel ATV and allows his son to move the rifle more easily. Powell applied for his deer tag and hunted on the ranch of a family friend.
When Powell squeezed the trigger on opening day of the 2008 deer season, he crossed a threshold almost all who knew him feared was beyond his reach. They should have known better. Ron sure did. After the first shocking despair, he and his wife, Nancy, insisted — almost commanded — it would happen again.
And even Powell himself, emerging two years ago from the haze of the coma, almost immediately began purposefully inching his way back to that shot on Oct. 4, 2008.
“It felt great,” he said. His three-point mule deer buck dropped in its tracks. He celebrated by catching a couple of trout in the nearby ranch pond with his one usable (so far) hand.
Taking the deer was another in a series of Powell’s goals. He watches little television, choosing instead to work out on a variety of machines between rehab appointments. He’s up to a six-minute mile on a hand bicycle; he does three to four miles a day. He has regained nearly full use of his left hand and limited use of his right, and he can stand again.
“My next step is to take a step,” said Powell, who plans to take the bar exam and practice law. “I know I’m going to walk again, that’s for sure. It’s just a matter of where and when.”
— Bill Monroe
Excerpted from the Nov. 30, 2008, issue of The Oregonian. Reprinted with permission of the author.
Photographs by Nancy Powell.