Students Help Paralyzed Patient BBQ Again



KXAN-TV News Anchor and Medical Reporter David Scott recently aired a story on Paul Horton, who was paralyzed from the chest down after a mountain bike accident. Horton now is a rehab regular at the Ascension Seton Brain and Spine Institute‘s Spinal Cord Injury Community Gym. As a result, he is back to doing a lot of what he enjoyed in retirement prior to his injury — including grilling burgers on his patio. A group of aspiring mechanical engineers in the The University of Texas at Austin’s Freshman Introduction to Research Engineering (FIRE) programcreated BBQ tools that happily returned Horton to cooking over the hot coals. Here is an excerpt of the story as it appears on KXAN’s website:

Paul Horton was paralyzed while mountain biking. Saved by his loyal and heroic golden retriever, Yogi, he leads a most active life, loving Yogi and the new inventions brought him by some students from a UT mechanical engineering project.

Most days, you’ll find Yogi singing with Paul and Shearon Horton around their piano. But Yogi came through big time four and a half years ago when Paul lay crippled in a ravine, unable to move. Paul recalls, “I remember being in the air, then I woke up on the ground, coughing up a lot of blood. Pretty quickly, I tried to roll over and realized I was paralyzed.”

Only one thing to do: send Yogi for help.

“I was telling him, ‘Yogi, be like Lassie, Timmy fell down the well. Go tell them, tell them I am hurt.’ ”

Yogi did, running to fetch neighbors. Paul says,

“He ran up to them and bark bark, bark, then ran away. Completely out of character for him, Yogi does not behave that way. They knew immediately something was wrong and followed him to where I was.”

For that, the Humane Society named Yogi the National Dog of Valor of the Year. Paul resumed his active retirement, sailing and kayaking on the water, hang gliding through the air. He’s adapted.

You might think a quadriplegic would most miss his legs, but not so. Paul raises his arms.

“People are surprised, oh people in a wheelchair it’s got to be number one. But no, it’s the hands number one. I wish I had full hand function.”

Paul missed grilling and that’s where the UT engineering students come in. Their chosen project was to design tools and kitchen gadgets that could make folks like Paul whole again. Their creations have him back out on the grill.

Sophomore Josh Hampton smiles, “This one was like you were directly impacting someone’s life, to make their quality of life a little better. I think we’ve done that.”

But don’t think he’s still not getting out hang gliding when he can. He grins, “It doesn’t matter my legs don’t work. What’s the worst thing that could happen, I’m going to break my neck?”

A poignant postscript: Yogi was recently diagnosed with bone cancer. Vets give him maybe six months. Paul and Shearon intend to shower him with lots of love, and lots of scraps now, off that grill.