Feature Friday: Superhero, John Evans

By Chrissie Ferguson

When I was a little girl, my heart raced when I stood next to a member of our armed services. It was as if I were starstruck—standing in the presence of greatness—staring at someone who had sacrificed his or her own opportunity for a normal life in order to keep us free.

As I grew up, that feeling continued. I was filled with a sense of pride when my cousins, who served as doctors in the military, shared stories of what they had experienced. They had sacrificed so much time away from their family and friends in order to help others. My cousins were and continue to be superheroes in my eyes.

And today, there is a new clan of superheroes—one that has been added to my list AND to yours. 

This new clan consists of doctors and nurses. 

As we wake up every morning to this new normal, we all wonder what lies ahead. We pour our cup of coffee, and as best we can, we try to live out each day within the perimeter of our homes.

But not everyone has the luxury to stay at home each day.

If doctors and nurses in the COVID Unit have not already been at work throughout the evening, they are on their way to work when the sun rises. They are then assigned to patients, and immediately, it’s go time. Just like our servicemen and women, our doctors and nurses are on the frontline—willing to sacrifice their lives in order to save the lives of others.

There is one member of this superhero clan, in particular, who deserves to be spotlighted in Wishlist’s “Feature Friday.” 

Dr. John Evans, a physician in Michigan who wears a Pearl Jam shirt under his scrubs every single day, has been bravely fighting COVID-19 on the frontline. 

But just how does Evans remain positive each day as he stands face-to-face with the pandemic?

“On the way to the hospital or on my way home, I have Pearl Jam Radio on. I’m setting up my day listening to them and winding down my day listening to them,” Evans explains.

The Pearl Jam community has also been a tremendous support to Evans.

“It has been like no other community. The love and support that has been conveyed to me…I don’t even have the words to share how meaningful it has been. It’s been a lifeline; it’s been incredible,” Evans says. 

“I must especially express my heartfelt gratitude to Sandra Ling, Nicole Shyti, Robin Ferraresi, Mike Dziama, and Dani Dziama for going above and beyond, by securing PPE and sanitizing supplies that have helped protect many healthcare workers and patients in the COVID Unit. Laura DeMartini Trafton, Becki “Sky,” Andrew Goldberg, and Laura Zaki have also mentioned efforts to secure additional PPE,” continues Evans.

Pearl Jam’s new album, Gigaton, has spoken to many of us in different ways. But for Evans, the album has become another avenue of support.

“I preordered the album when it was first announced. As new songs were released on various platforms, I would listen to them over and over…connecting deeply, but differently with each song, each time I listened to them.

My copy of Gigaton arrived around the early part of my second week in the COVID Unit. I didn’t open the packaging right away…actually, not for a couple of weeks. While I had been listening to the songs for a while, having my own hard copy of Gigaton in my hands triggered an odd reaction. 

I felt myself break down emotionally, and it worried me. We were experiencing a lot of death in the COVID Unit at that time, and I was afraid that I was going to break down and be unable to competently function in that environment anymore—which is something that I usually never think about—because I practice medicine with my heart on my sleeve and laugh and cry with my patients. 

I do not subscribe to the mentality of needing to keep an edge or a hard exterior, so as to not be affected by things. Yet, there I was doing just that. For whatever reason, I simply could not open Gigaton for the longest time. After a couple of weeks, I finally opened it, and exactly what I thought was going to happen, happened. 

I totally broke down emotionally. However, afterward, rather than weakening me, I felt stronger and more connected with myself, the world around me, and my patients in the COVID Unit. Once again, the power of Pearl Jam worked its sublime magic.”

John, you are a superhero—not only in my eyes, but in the eyes of your patients and the eyes of your Pearl Jam community. We are here for you, supporting you, every step of the way. Don’t forget that.

Thank you, John, and all health care workers, first responders and essential workers who are on the frontline during this pandemic. We appreciate you more than you will ever know!

“Share the light. Won’t hold us down.”
John’s nieces made this luminaria for him.

PJ Community, please share your positive Pearl Jam stories with me at [email protected]. Let’s lift each other up during these uncertain times.