Community raising money to help prominent Toronto dancer who suffered a stroke at 34
Jemal "Angel" Evans has been a prominent member of Toronto's ballroom scene for years, but his ability to continue working as a dancer was recently compromised by a series of severe health issues.
It all began when Evans experienced a brutal headache at the end of January. A couple days after that, his mobility became further restricted, so he decided to visit a walk-in clinic.
"It's pretty terrifying because at first I thought it was just something small," Evans told blogTO.
Upon arrival, Evans' request to be seen by a doctor was denied on the basis that he needed to take a COVID-19 test and have blood work done first, so he instead travelled to a nearby hospital despite his pain and discomfort.
There, a nurse noticed how much Evans was suffering. He was quickly examined by doctors and it was determined that he had suffered a stroke to the right side of his brain at the young age of 34.
From the shoulder down, Evans completely lost all mobility on the entire left side of his body.
"It was shocking and a lot to get used to," said Evans, who is now at a rehab facility. "A lot of change very quickly, especially with my mobility."
Evans' close friend Matthew Chiu has since started a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for the pricey recovery costs, which can range from roughly $23,000 to $32,000 in Canada.
Evans told blogTO he tends to be a very private person and probably wouldn't have reached out for help from anyone, had it not been for Chiu's insistence on starting the campaign. For that he is very grateful.
"Jemal 'Angel' Evans is a gifted dancer, teacher and friend," wrote Chiu in the campaign. "We love Jemal and it is so hard to see him struggling at this time. Jemal is known for having held kiki balls in his own living room during the early days of the Toronto ballroom scene."
Evans has also performed at the Toronto Pride Parade and competed internationally, according to the campaign, and he is described by Chiu as "one of the forerunners of the Toronto Ballroom scene."
But sadly, this isn't the first time health problems have gotten in the way of his passion for dance.
At the beginning of 2020, according to Chiu, Evans ruptured his Achilles tendon, which put him out of work until this past November.
But the community is now coming to his aid, and members of the public have donated nearly $7,000 of the $30,000 goal as of Wednesday at 3 p.m.
"I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know if I'm actually going to be able to walk or move anything. [The money is] kind of like a peace of mind so I know if worst comes to worst, at least I have that," Evans said.
"My goal is to hopefully walk out of the rehab centre and as soon as I do get my mobility back, if I do, then I definitely would focus again on teaching and dancing."
But for now, Evans said he is extremely grateful to have a friend like Chiu in his corner.
"He's pretty much like my guardian angel. You don't have too many friends like him, so I appreciate him, like, a lot," he said. "I'm very grateful for all of the support and all the words."
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