Man could lose vision after hunting accident

Posted May 27, 2010, at 9:14 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:38 a.m.

LAGRANGE, Maine — A turkey hunting accident two weeks ago cost Adam Jewell his right eye, left him totally blind for six days and could still threaten his left eye. Yet Jewell’s voice is strong and calm, and soars with enthusiasm when he discusses his fledgling video production company.

Recovering at home Wednesday from 1½ hours of surgery Monday at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor — where the eye was replaced by a prosthetic component — the 30-year-old salesman, composer and musician said his fortitude isn’t constant, but his faith is.

“I could probably honestly say that my strength comes from my faith in Jesus and my relationship with Christ. It is there where I find my strength,” Jewell said. “On my own, I don’t think I could do this. It’s a very traumatic experience for me and my family. It’s very hard.”

Jewell still has too much to face to allow himself to feel much sadness about the accident, he said.

“When they told me Monday that they had to extract my eye, I broke down for the first time, mostly out of the realization of what is going to happen,” he said.

“They don’t put you out. I was awake for the majority of the procedure. It was pretty painful. I remember asking them to give me more [local anesthetic] … I could feel what they were doing.”

The Maine Warden Service continues to investigate the shooting, which occurred between a large hayfield and thick woods near 440 North Chester Road in Chester shortly after 7 a.m. May 11.

As Jewell sat on the ground, obscured by thick leaves and branches, his friend Joel Susen, 29, of Chester, hit him with a blast of turkey shot from about 40 yards away.

The accident occurred after Jewell’s hunting party, which was wearing camouflage garb, spotted and called a turkey they saw in the field before it ran into thick woods. The hunting party separated and moved to the edge of the woods, officials said.

Jewell was sitting in an area between the woods and field when Susen thought he saw a turkey and opened fire.

The warden service took Susen’s weapon as evidence, as is standard procedure. Investigators have said they will refer the case to the Penobscot County District Attorney’s Office for review after their probe of the incident is finished.

Deborah Turcotte, spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said Thursday that game wardens continue to work with the District Attorney’s Office to determine whether charges will be filed.

Jewell has no doubt the shooting was accidental. He thinks Susen will not be charged. When Susen realized what he had done, he ran to Jewell, tore off Jewell’s shirt to check that the pellets, which shredded parts of Jewell’s face, neck and left shoulder, hadn’t punctured his chest, Jewell said.

Then Susen lay atop Jewell to keep him warm in the early-morning cold and asked several times for forgiveness, which Jewell gave. Susen’s brother Josh called 911, Jewell said.

“I spoke with Joel last night. He seems to be doing pretty good. He is still pretty torn up about the situation,” Jewell said Wednesday. “It is hard for him. It would be hard for anybody in a situation like this. He has a very sensitive conscience. He’s a good kid who just made a mistake. He feels terrible about it.”

Jewell’s composure isn’t a surprise to his wife, 29-year-old Laura Jewell, and his friend and business partner at Bangor’s Motion Light Studios, Brian Monahan, 24, of Orono.

“The accident itself is crazy, but Adam is amazing. He’s still Adam,” said Monahan, who called Jewell “one of the most charismatic people I have ever known.

“He is dealing with everything probably the best that anybody could. He is still moving, trying to get better. He is ready to get back [to work] as soon as he can, and that is kind of the crazy thing,” Monahan said. “He is still inspired. It hasn’t deterred him at all.”

The Jewells are members of Lincoln Christian Fellowship, a nondenominational Christian church in Lincoln, and are devoutly religious, The family’s faith and the kindness of friends and the community have helped propel it forward, said Laura Jewell, who has been married to Adam for eight years. They have three children: 3-year-old Haley, 5-year-old Emma and Jeremiah, 6.

“You have two choices. You can be really angry [or] you can forgive,” Laura Jewell said. “There are times for anger, but that’s for you in your quiet place. It doesn’t resolve anything and it doesn’t make anything better.”

Jewell briefly considered surgery at Boston hospitals to possibly save his right eye, but doctors said that might spur infection or otherwise risk his left eye’s vision, he said.

“Trust me, it was a difficult decision and a gamble that I didn’t necessarily want to take,” he said.

The Jewells worry that his wounds could become infected or that the more than 10 pellets still in his head could damage his left eye or his brain by drifting, unless they’re removed. Jewell’s vision is still slightly cloudy, but measured 20/20 earlier this week.

He won’t know whether he faces more surgery until his doctors tell him, but he would like to see the pellets removed from his skull and sinuses. Besides his fears of infection, the pellets hurt, he said.

“There is nothing stopping the pellets behind my [right eye socket] from going into my brain,” Jewell said, calling their not penetrating his brain “truly the mercy of God as far as I am concerned.”

“I feel a little sore — tired, definitely — and I am just looking forward for this to kind of be all over,” he said.

But Jewell knows that he has to keep pushing himself to get well and to be there for his wife, children and his work. Motion Light Studios, he said, is three months old and still in startup mode. As one of its three principals, he cannot afford a long time away to recover from his wounds.

“You kind of have to shut part of yourself off. You have to assess the temperature of the situation,” Jewell said. “If you are upset, it will affect the people around you. For me, I just do what I have to do. I just have to hold it together.

“I am sure there will be a time where I can let go, but this isn’t the time for those emotions.”

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