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'Ben' There, Doing That
Updated: Friday, May 23 2014, 10:24 AM CDT
While most teenagers dream of a new ride when they turn 16, Ben Waker was getting adjusted to these wheels. Because 15 months before his 16th birthday, Ben's life was re-routed down a much different road.
"I was face down in the water," Ben recalled. "I was trying to paddle to get up and breathe but I couldn't."
A surfing accident broke Ben's sixth and seventh vertebrae. He had no feeling and no movement. He was 14 years old and paralyzed.
"He knew we were there," said Ben's mother Patty. "We reassured him we would do whatever it takes, however long it takes to get him better."
There's nothing stronger than a mother's love. Everything is bigger in Texas. Bigger and stronger. That sure sounds like a football player doesn't it?
Doug English, the legendary Longhorns defensive end and College Football Hall of Famer has tackled a new career. As the President of the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation, English gives patients with spinal cord injuries an option for therapy and recovery that is virtually unparalleled in the United States. He personally invited the Wakers to Austin.
"There's a place for Ben to go to get better and to get everything back he can get," said English. "That's a success story."
Turns out, that was just the first chapter of Waker's success story. Immediately following his accident, Ben's strength was non-existent.
"Basically his body was taken back to infant state," Patty explained.
But less than two years later, after therapy at the Seton Brain and Spine Recovery Center - often more than 5 hours a day, 5 days a week - week after week - Ben is anything but weak.
"I feel like I've made 100 percent progress since last year," Ben said. "I've doubled my strength. I've been able to do so much more."
He can petal - he can stand - and yes, he can even drive a car. His car. An adapted Dodge Avenger. But any good ride is built with quality parts.
"Mom's been everything to this," Ben added. "She's the reason I am where I am today."
Patty refused to take all the credit. "My husband is at home, working hard to keep this all going," she said. "And I have a daughter who's there and she's been wonderful as well. So it's a whole recipe."
Before arriving in Austin last January, Ben could not hold his hand above his head. He's now lifting a whole lot more than just his arm.
"To face your rehabilitation and recovery with such determination and with a smile on your face is just inspiring," English noted.
by Adam Winkler