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Owosso St. Paul student doesn’t let loss of hand slow him down

By Brandi Schueller
The Catholic Times

OWOSSO — Life can change in a matter of a few seconds.

Just ask Jeffrey Meihls, a 2012 graduate of St. Paul School in Owosso.

Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011, started out as any other day. Jeffrey woke up, got ready for the day and headed off to school. That Wednesday was supposed to be an extra good day. It was the day before Thanksgiving, there was a half day of school and Jeffrey was going to go deer hunting with his dad. It was the hunting trip that would forever change Jeffrey’s life.

Before heading out to their usual deer stand, Jeffrey and his dad, Rob, were told by a couple of workers in the area they had just seen some deer along the river. Rob and Jeffrey decided to head that way. As they came to a ditch, Jeffrey handed his dad his gun. It was a wet day and as Rob went to take the gun, he lost his footing and slipped.

This caused the gun to discharge, hitting Jeffrey in the wrist.

Rob’s immediate reaction was getting Jeffrey to the hospital.

Fortunately the workers were still in the area and Rob was able to yell to them for help. They brought a truck down to the field where Rob and Jeffrey were and they drove them back to Rob’s truck. From there, they dialed 911 and sped out of the field towards the hospital. While on the phone with the 911, the operator directed Rob to the Mobile Medical Response (MMR) office, which was about one and a half miles from the accident. The EMTs quickly went to work on Jeffrey and transferred him to Hurley Medical Center in Flint.

After assessing the situation, the doctors determined Jeffrey would end up losing his hand. The Meihls, especially Rob, felt terrible and devastated about Jeffrey having to lose one of his hands. However, at the same time they said they were thanking God because if the shot had hit a couple of inches in one direction it would have hit a major organ and could have been fatal. Instead of losing his life, Jeffrey lost a hand. Losing a hand was something the family could deal with.

Now Jeffrey uses a prosthetic hook to assist him with his everyday chores. It has taken a little time for him to get used to his prosthetic. He had to relearn simple tasks such as tying his shoes or writing with a pen or pencil. He also has a basketball prosthetic and baseball adaptor device, which allow his to play sports, something he has always loved to do.

Right now he has a preparatory prosthetic, but sometime in the future he will get a definitive prosthetic. The definitive one will most likely be body-powered, like his hook is now. These look semi-real and operate electronically by muscles in the forearm.

Jeffrey also has had a lot of support. A lot of people have been praying for him. The day after the accident, on Thanksgiving, there was a special prayer Mass at St. Paul. Family and friends also went to visit Jeffrey in the hospital.

St. Paul School made accommodations for Jeffrey. The Shiawassee RESD provided an iPad on which he does his schoolwork on. It was with the iPad that Jeffrey was able to do a report on Jim Abbott, a famous baseball pitcher who was born without a right hand.

After realizing Jeffrey was an Abbott fan, St. Paul teacher Linda Murphy contacted the Flint native and former Major League Baseball pitcher and he sent Jeffrey a personalized letter and an autographed picture. St. Paul School surprised Jeffrey with the letter and picture one day after Mass. In addition, Jeffrey’s parents were able to surprise him by taking him, his sister and his brother to meet Abbott at a book signing.

Jeffrey started high school in September.