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Texas Longhorn Legend Helps Paralyzed Teenager

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 10:47 PM CDT


Ben Waker is a 15 year old freshman who recently came to Austin. He had been living in Ohio, a state almost as crazy about football as we are down in Texas. Growing up near Dayton, Ben actually started playing in the third grade. Now, football is not what brought him to the Lone Star State, but a football player is helping him get home.

At an early age, Ben Waker fell fast for the fast lane.

"I've wanted to drive since I was eight years old," recalled Ben.

But 15 months before his 16th birthday, the kid who dreamed of being behind the wheel had his life turn down a much different road.

"I stood up and then the board just turned on me," said Ben. "I was face down in the water. I was trying to paddle to get up and breathe but I couldn't."

A surfing accident broke Ben's 6th and 7th vertebrae. He had no feeling and no movement. He was 14 years old and paralyzed.

"He knew we were there," said Patty Waker, Ben's mother. "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.

"The absolute greatest gift anyone could ever give you is to offer to help your child," said Patty. "We are forever grateful."

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."

Before coming to Austin in January, Ben could not lift his arm above his head. But six hours a day, five days a week at the Health South Rehabilitation Hospital has Waker nearly fully independent. And even though he doesn't have total feeling back, Ben is not feeling sorry for himself.

"I have bad moments but I never have a bad day," said Ben. "It could always be worse, that's what I keep thinking to myself."

They're still not sure if Ben will be behind the wheel for his 16th birthday or at any time for that matter. But even if he never puts a car in gear, Waker has already shown us a thing or two about drive - even if it's down a road he never could have mapped.

"As bad as our situation is, so many people have it so much worse," admitted Patty. "So you just try and stay positive and look for the good in things, work hard and try and make the best of it."

By Adam Winkler

Texas Longhorn Legend Helps Paralyzed Teenager


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