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Who Is Paul Oppegard?

Updated: Mar 15, 2022

Paul Oppegard was on the danger of losing his left hand about three years ago. A malfunctioning muzzleloader exploded in Oppegard's hand when he was shooting a deer in October 2018, causing extensive harm.

Paul Oppegard was on the danger of losing his left hand about three years ago.

A malfunctioning muzzleloader exploded in Oppegard's hand when he was shooting a deer in October 2018, causing extensive harm. Both his index and middle fingers had been amputated, and the rest of his fingers were severely damaged, with tissue and nerve damage.

"At the time, I wasn't concerned about shooting; I was concerned about the use of my left hand and whether or not it would be amputated," said Oppegard, who has lived in Fargo for 45 years.

Doctors at Sanford didn't believe the hand could be salvaged, therefore the option of amputation was discussed. Oppegard was transported to a specialist at Regions Hospital in St. Paul when his hand could not be saved in Fargo.

Oppegard still has his left hand — and a world championship in sporting clays shooting — almost three years later.

Oppegard won first place in the Veterans Division of the 2021 World FITASC Sporting Championships in Budapest, Hungary, in late July.

"It was only because I overcame the injuries that I was able to win the world title," Oppegard remarked. "I just felt like if I could overcome that, I'd have a good chance of winning the championship." It's an odd thing."

From the hospital to the top of the podium, it was a lengthy journey.

Sanford worked with Oppegard for around 16 weeks. He admitted that he was first reliant on others to help him with daily duties such as getting dressed. He needed a cast and a covering over his left hand when he took a shower, and tying his shoes and buttoning his shirt required assistance. Due to usage, problems began to occur in his right hand. Oppegard began to use and strengthen his left hand again, despite the agony.

"I just tried harder as time went on," Oppegard explained. "I would use my left hand to carry a gas can." My left hand is used to pick up objects. That was, in my opinion, the most effective treatment."

He couldn't shoot a gun for the first year after the injury because of the thumb's limitations. Oppegard began shooting the following year and had some success, but he needed to make some changes.

Following the accident, he was a little jittery when he took his first shot.

"To fire the trigger, I was terrified out of my mind," Oppegard added. "It all went away after a couple of sessions." My stomach was churning the first time I went shooting.

"I was terrified to pull the trigger," Oppegard admitted. "That all went away after a session or two." My tummy felt upset the first time I went to shoot. "You're curious as to how it will feel."

Oppegard's range of motion, dexterity, and strength were all increased this year, and he reverted to his previous form and technique.

Oppegard hasn't always participated in competitive shooting. He stated he learned it when he was in his 40s, around 25 to 30 years ago. Since then, Oppegard has carved up a distinguished career in the sport, competing in events in Europe, Australia, and Dubai. He's won the US Open twice. Opened and won several other national events, as well as finishing second in the world competition in 2012.

For the past 20 years, Oppegard's practice regimen has consisted of shooting an hour a day, three to four times a week.