EDMOND — Ever since Tyler Bowman lost his arms in an electrical shock accident, the Pawhuska native has embraced one particular biblical verse.
Bowman nearly came up about 25 days short of turning 17 years old.
“I was on a four-wheeler, and a highline pole fell, and I ended up getting in a fight with the electrical line,” said Bowman, recalling June 4, 2007. “It was just a freak accident.
“Honestly, I shouldn't be alive, but it is by the grace of God that I am, and I know He has a plan for me. Whatever I can do to glorify Him, I'm going to attempt it.”
Bowman, who lost his left arm and part of his right arm, embraced Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
“All things” means many different things in this young's man life.
Bowman, 22, is on track to graduate from the University of Central Oklahoma in the summer. However, he will be walking in the College of Business and College of Fine Arts ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday. He will officially graduate July 30 with a bachelor of business administration degree, majoring in business administration-general business.
“If you want to define all things, I can do pretty much everything I did before, I just have to adapt and overcome,” he said. “It might take me a little bit longer to do something. Take the simplest thing like getting dressed. I wake up in the morning, I pull my arms on, and then I get dressed. It might take me a little bit longer to accomplish those tasks, but I can still do them. I'm completely independent. I have my own apartment.”
Bowman, whose family ranches near Pawhuska, doesn't want the custom prosthetic limbs to define him. He wants his faith to define him.
“You look at things as little as opening a gate, chain latches,” he said. “I have been sitting there struggling trying to get a chain latch open, because it's wedged in there or something. This has happened on more than one occasion. I will just drop the latch and say, ‘Lord please help me get this open.' I'll grab the chain and it pops open.”
How they work
When asked how his arms work, Bowman looks at each.
In layman terms, sensors that pick up biceps/triceps movement allow him to operate his left arm. If he wants to open his left hand, Bowman flexes the triceps muscle. To close it, he flexes his biceps muscle.
On the other side, he basically works “that muscle in my forearm” to operate the right arm.
Bowman is quick to remember the source of his strength to do all things, which again, is a long list.
A few months after the accident, his father, Ace Bowman, without the knowledge of his wife, Teresa, helped Tyler, with no left arm, get back in the saddle aboard one of the family's ranch horses. This was inevitable for Tyler, who has been told he was swinging a rope before his second birthday.
And a few months after that, Tyler went elk hunting in New Mexico.
“I knew it was going to be tough, because at that time I still didn't have my left arm,” he said. “So I had my crossbow on a tripodal. I ended up taking a cow elk.”
His all-things approach includes academics. With the help of Pastor Creth Hopkins and his wife, Rhonda, Bowman was homeschooled and graduated from high school on time in 2009. After earning an associate degree at Northern Oklahoma College in Tonkawa, he began attending UCO.
Why did he choose to study business?
“There's a business side to everything,” Bowman said. “So I kind of wanted to be more diverse as far as in the fields that I've learned.
“Eventually I would like to open my own business.”
‘Tyler's something else'
At preschool in Pawhuska, the teacher could tell pretty quickly that these two country kids, Bowman and J.D. Coldren, would probably get along.
“So they sent me down there to play with him and kind of get to know him,” said Coldren, 22.
“We've been pretty much best friends ever since that day.”
After that year, Bowman went to Pawhuska schools until the accident, and his buddy went to Shidler. But that didn't separate them. When school wasn't in, they'd sometimes spend weeks together — “'til we got sick of each other, then we'd take a break for awhile, then we'd hang out again,” Coldren said.
Coldren, who has been working in recent months in Wyoming, said his friend's approach to life after the accident has changed his own perspective about challenges.
“My family and I went to visit Tyler at the hospital a few weeks after his accident. This is when he was fully awake and aware of what was going on and how it would affect him for the rest of his life,” Coldren said. “From the moment I walked into that little room, he had a smile on his face as if it was the best day of his life. Most people would still be down and out. I know I would have been.
“When I entered the room, he stuck out what was left of his arm to shake my hand with no hesitation and asked how I was, and we talked and laughed for a few hours just like normal and never really even said much about the accident.”
The only things Bowman said about it were positive. Instead of wondering why God would allow this, Bowman was saying, “Why not me?” Coldren remembers sitting there listening to his buddy reason that “God must know I can handle this and have a plan for me.”
A few minutes later, as the Coldrens were about to leave, Tyler looked at J.D. and said, “Man I can't wait to get my arms and get adjusted to them so we can go have some fun like old times.”
And they did, including rooming together their freshman year at Northern Oklahoma College.
“In college, I hardly ever typed college reports, I always had a girl do it for me,” Coldren said. “Tyler typed every one of those papers with that keyboard. I don't know how he done it, but he did it.
“Tyler's something else.”
Bowman contends that faith, family and friends are what have gotten him through and have allowed him to keep a great attitude.
“I've been able to reach more people and help more people,” Bowman said of life since the accident. “Before, I was a 16-year-old, I was just a normal kid, and it's like after the accident, I always give God the glory.
“Anything that is good in my life, God gets glory for it.”