Annually, approximately 15 million individuals between the ages of 25 to 75 will suffer the debilitating effects of a stroke, the majority being 65 years and older, with roughly 6 million fatalities annually.
According to the National Stroke Association, by definition; “a stroke occurs when the blood flow to the brain is blocked, or a blood vessel in the brain suddenly ruptures. Without blood, brain cells start to die.”
That stark, clinical analysis and the data provided by the medical community fails to tell the real story and emotional trauma of stroke victims like Kevin Eubanks, who suffered a life altering stroke in 2014.
Fortunately, Eubanks survived the initial stroke, yet was left partially paralyzed on the left side of his body with severe weakness to his hand and not being able to speak clearly initially. Perhaps worst of all, he was unable to hug his grandchildren – that is, until now.
Thanks to Emily Sisco, an occupational therapy assistant and adjunct professor at Arkansas State University, who recently challenged several of her students to create a piece of adaptive equipment for stroke victims like Eubanks, who also coincidentally happens to be her father.
"*" indicates required fields
Students Erica Dexter, Larissa Garcia, Lisa James, and Casey Parsons interviewed Eubanks in order to get a better understanding of his challenges, inquiring about things he missed doing since he lost the use of his left arm over 8-years ago.
“He answered things like fishing and grilling, but then he said, ‘I miss hugging people with two hands’,” Dexter, one of HugAgain’s creators, told Southern Living. “Our thoughts clung to that statement, and we decided we just had to find a way to help him be able to hug again.”
Emily acknowledged that since the stroke, her dad said, “he didn’t feel like it was the same anymore now that he couldn’t hug.”
The team of students came up with an ingenious, yet simple invention that allows the user to wrap a long Velcro strap around the weak arm, taking the other end of the strap with their strong hand and lifting up the weak arm (similar to a pulley), which then allows the stroke victim to wrap both arms around another person.
Their invention originally named “The Hugger”, and later renamed “HugAgain”, allows stroke victims like Eubanks to not only hug with two arms, but to also do other simple tasks.
“The Hugger is made for those who have low or no function in one of their arms and want the opportunity to hug again!! Hugging is therapeutic and has many health benefits! We all want to hug the ones we love!” said the inventors.
Larissa Garcia said they wanted to create a piece of equipment that would be “meaningful” to Eubanks. And it certainly was.
Eubanks’ emotional reaction to using the HugAgain for the first time was captured on video by Emily. In the three-minute clip, Emily introduces the device to her dad and helps him put it on.
She begins by wrapping the looped end of the Velcro strap around her dad’s left wrist, while reassuring the viewers that the device is extremely comfortable and made from really soft material. Emily then calls one of her sons, Cope, to stand in front of his grandpa.
Eubanks then grabs the other end of the HugAgain with his right hand, lifts his arms up, and calls the boy in for a hug!
He immediately begins to cry while hugging his grandson with both arms, something he hasn’t done in 8 years.
When Emily asked what he wanted to tell the students, Eubanks said, “I appreciate everything y’all have done. This is a dream of mine.”
He then gave another one of his grandsons, Rigley, a hug. “Come here, young man,” he said before lifting his arms up with the help of the HugAgain.
So far, the February 3rd video has generated over 4.6 million views on Facebook.
Students invent a device to help a stroke patient hug again for the first time in 8 years The “HugAgain” is a game changer for Mr. Eubanks and his family. @rstraxMD @RasuShrestha @JoeBabaian @LindsayLuvDavis @iamzapgirl @Emil_LeeMD @JohnJordanMD @Vilavaitehttps://t.co/A8wT39DN7A
— Ian Weissman, DO (@DrIanWeissman) February 16, 2022