At 40 years old, Los Altos Hills resident Henry Evans was living the Silicon Valley dream. He was a chief financial officer at a software startup with a business degree from Stanford University. He could drive his two kids to school, take them and his wife to parks and engage his colleagues in conversation.
Until he couldn’t.
Evans suffered a stroke Aug. 22, 2002, and in that instant, his entire life changed.
“When I woke up in the ICU, all I could do was move my eyeballs and blink my eyes,” Evans wrote in an email to the Town Crier. “Communication was painfully slow. In the months that followed, I slowly regained enough head and left thumb movement to use an eye-gaze board or head tracker to communicate, methods I still rely upon today.”
Mute and quadriplegic, it seemed all but impossible for Evans to live a normal life again.
But he didn’t give up.
Evans wrote that he immediately turned to robotic technology, a growing market for people with physical disabilities, and was able to use new innovations to not only communicate, but also to complete tasks even a fully abled person couldn’t do.
“I use robotics technology to extend my capabilities – I use the head tracker every day to email, to design things, to write songs, do online banking and to buy things online,” he wrote.
The humble Evans has done much more than that, however. He’s also used technology to give TED Talks, pilot a drone to Rhode Island and even coach his son’s football team.
Recently, Evans embarked on a new challenge: songwriting. But being mute, he had to find someone to sing the melody. That’s when he turned to Nick Aborizk, a Florida-based singer with the stage name Nick Tayler.
“(He found me) during New Year’s, off of Craigslist,” Aborizk said of Evans. “I went on Craigslist and searched ‘Nashville’ because I was curious if anyone needed a song put together to see what I can find. He had an ad on there, which I found, and I sent him some of my music videos and asked him if he thought my sound would work out. He sent me some lyrics and we just worked back and forth on Facebook.”
After months of trading ideas, the two eventually produced “Measure of a Man,” a song available for free on YouTube.
“It was fun, but a lot of work,” Evans wrote.
He added that it took him six months to a year to write the lyrics and find Aborizk, then another six months of working with the musician – who came up with the melody – to create the finished product.
“We made a good team because our skills are so complementary,” Evans wrote.
At first, Evans didn’t open up to Aborizk about his disability, but as the two grew closer, they shared more and more information.
“For a while there, I didn’t know anything about his disability,” Aborizk said. “After knowing him and working on a song and believing in his lyrics, then finding out that he had a disability and still had these lyrics, the impact was emotional. It was eye-opening that he’s got a song and he does everything he does, even though he can’t move.”
Aborizk found Evans inspirational.
“Getting to know him, just – Henry’s an amazing, amazing man,” Aborizk said. “I mean, just beyond, well, I’ve got no words about Henry. What he is capable of and what he can achieve and what he does given the position he’s in, he conquers and he’s had a lot of accomplishments. He’s a great person; his wife and his family are just amazing people. He’s an inspiration and definitely someone that I look up to, a role model in my life.”
The two are already working on more music, with hopes to release another song in a few months.
Evans also submitted song lyrics to the Nashville Song Service and has had one of the songs, “The Redneck Anthem,” produced.
“If I can do it, anyone can do it,” Evans wrote.
For those facing setbacks in their lives who are looking to push forward, Evans offered a key piece of advice.
“The main point I would like to make is that, while you have nothing to say about which cards you get dealt in life, you have everything to say about how you play them,” he wrote.
To listen to “The Redneck Anthem” or “Measure of a Man,” visit YouTube and type the song titles in the search bar.