Pieced back together
Hancock resident still exercises, despite 35 surgeries, 7 replacement joints
Evan Weinper, 53, now a Hancock resident, walks with a wooden cane and considers himself fortunate.
“I spent 11 years working in jails and prisons out of Las Vegas, Nevada,” he said.
He worked long days, often 16 hours, for weeks at a time and worked as a canine officer, too. In addition, starting at age 17 he was a competition weightlifter.
“Sometimes after shift I’d train for an hour,” he said.
But one day at work he got involved in a cell block fight, and his hand was severely injured. It took him two years of rehabilitation to recover. He never went back to corrections work. Instead, he leaned into his weightlifting career, lifting at an olympic level and touring the world.
“Throwing weight over my head just became kind of normal for me,” he said. “When I needed extra money, I was a chest model.”
His personal best lift weight is 326 pounds.
In his early thirties, he had to give it all up. The years of rough treatment in law enforcement, corrections and athletics took their toll on Weinper’s body. Including surgeries for his hand injury, he’s now undergone 35 surgeries, including seven joint replacements.
“My knees have been done 11 times,” he said.
In addition to his knees, both of his shoulders have been replaced, and he has two cages plus rods, screws and spacers in the lumbar region of his spine. He also has a “Spinal Cord Stimulator” system — an implanted pulse generator that delivers tiny electric pulses that mask pain signals sent to his brain.
“If it wasn’t for the doctor in New York with the stimulator, I wouldn’t be walking,” he said.
Weinper doesn’t live the same life anymore, now he lives on disability and spends his time quietly around Hancock and Houghton.
“Do I miss it? Yeah, I had a good life. But recovering here in the community… I’ve met some wonderful people here in the community and they have really helped me,” Weinper said.
One thing he does regularly is swim in Michigan Tech’s pool.
“The fact that Michigan Tech is helping me getting myself to some normalcy again is really a great benefit,” he said.
Weinper got a doctor’s recommendation that swimming would help keep his replacement joints loose and his muscles toned. MTU, recognizing they have the only public pool in the area, offered Weinper a discount on membership to their health club, in light of his disabilities and limited, fixed income while on disability.
“We are happy that he came to us and proud of our staff for meeting his needs and the needs of this community,” MTU athletic director Suzanne Sanregret said in a written statement.
Weinper said most days he swims for as much as an hour.
“It’s very therapeutic for all these replacements, and it’s making me move,” he said. “So in a pool, I swim like a fish.”
Weinper thanks a multitude of doctors for reconstructing his body, including some from here in Copper Country. He particularly thanked Dr. Ronald Ronquist, in orthopedics at UP Health System – Portage.
“It’s been a journey, but I am so thankful to some of the best doctors in the country, and some of them are right here in Michigan, who have pieced me back together,” Weinper said.