By Dominick Cross Photos by Robin May
When a cane knife wielded by Kevin Dugas ricocheted off a tree branch and nearly severed the forefinger on his left hand, the drummer saw his 20-plus year career with Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys flash before his eyes.
"My world passed right in front of me when I cut it," Dugas recalls. "I said, Oh, man. I just messed up.' Then I realized I had to call Steve and tell him I couldn't play."
That was late October.
However, 71 days later, Dugas was back on the cans and driving the bus for the Mamou Playboys.
"Everything went well," Dugas says of the gig. "My hand swelled up a bit. But overall, it was good. It still hurts a bit."
Understandably, the veteran drummer was a tad nervous picking up the drumsticks for the first time following the accident, surgery and ongoing rehab.
"I was scared," laughs Dugas. "Just trying to remember the songs, along with not dropping the stick."
When Dugas was out on injured reserve, the band continued to perform with Jamey Bearb on drums.
"We talked about some things," Dugas says. "He knew what he had to do - he did a damn good job - that guy is a great talent."
But back to the day Dugas will not soon forget.
"It was Oct. 27," Dugas says dryly. "A Thursday. A Thursday morning."
Dugas was helping a cousin trim branches along a tree line on his Lafayette property when it happened.
"My hand was wrapped around the branch," he says. "I was holding the branch out and it cut right above the knuckle on my pointer finger."
While a self-inflicted wound, Dugas had some assistance from the tree.
"I hit the branch on the side of me, and the cane knife, it ricocheted," says Dugas. "It cut through the bone and all the tendons and stuff."
At the same time, "It nicked my butter finger," he says. "It didn't cut any tendons. All of my other fingers are good."
Dugas went to his doctor who stitched him up and sent him to New Orleans. Contrary to rumors, Dugas was not turned away at the hospital because of a lack of insurance.
"Their hand surgeon only worked on Fridays," Dugas says. "So they gave me medicine and set me up with an appointment the next week."
"My world passed right in front of me
In November, Lagniappe Productions, based out of Rhode Island, put together a "Friends of Kevin Dugas Krewe" to help raise money for Dugas and his family.
"Chuck (Wentworth) and them in Rhode Island, they really helped me out a lot," says Dugas, adding that local residents and businesses have also chipped in to help with the bills. "They got me through Christmas."
In early January, Dugas' doctor figured he has about a month more of physical therapy (at three times a week) with Casey Arceneaux, a physical therapist at Lafayette's P.T. South.
"That's not a problem," he says. "I can live with that."
On the mend, Dugas says although he has to ice down his hand after playing, and there is dead skin on the knuckle at the point of impact, he does have feeling in the injured finger and his future as a drummer looks good.
"It might not be 100 percent," he says, "but it will be pretty darn close."
Donations will be accepted through the New England state's Mardi Gras ball on the Pawtuxet on Feb. 18. Checks, with Friends of Kevin Dugas on the memo line, can be sent to Lagniappe Productions, 51 White Oak Court, Wakefield, RI, 02879; or online at www.mardigrasri.com/2011/11/fundraiser-to-support-kevin-dugas/ and click on Dugas' name.