Since Kevin Eubanks suffered a stroke in 2014, he has not been able to go fishing or give a proper hug, amongst other things.
His daughter, Emily Sisco, is an occupational therapy assistant and adjunct professor at Arkansas State University. Wanting her Occupational Therapy Assistant students to experience working with an actual client, she challenged them to create a piece of adaptive equipment that could help her dad perform various tasks.
Emily presented them with the idea by showing a video of him doing his daily activities. After watching the video, the students also FaceTimed with Kevin to gather more information, such as his likes.
He told them that he missed fishing, playing with his grandkids, and hugging people with both of his arms.
Emily’s students rose to the challenge. They created devices that could help those with mobility issues perform various activities such as fishing, showering, and playing cards easier, but the crowd favorite was “The Hugger.”
“He said he didn’t feel like it was the same anymore now that he couldn’t (hug),” Emily said. “I had one group that took this one small statement and ran with it.”
Kevin had weakness in his left arm, so the students came up with “The Hugger,” now named “HugAgain,” a device that would allow him to give two-armed hugs again.
“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 its inventors.
The equipment was the brilliant creation of occupational therapy assistant students Lisa James, Larissa Garcia, Erica Dexter, and Casey Parsons.
“We created a strap that he could grab with the other hand and wrap around another person,” Lisa told TODAY.
Larissa said they wanted to create a piece of equipment that would be “meaningful” to Kevin. And it certainly was.
Kevin’s 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 his dad and helps him put it on.
She wraps the HugAgain—which had Velcro straps—around her dad’s left wrist while mentioning that it had really soft material. Emily then calls one of her sons, Cope, to stand in front of his grandpa.
Kevin 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 eight years.
When Emily asked what he wanted to tell the students, Kevin 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.
Since Emily shared it on February 3, the video has been viewed 4.6 million times on Facebook, earning many positive responses from viewers.
Kevin believes the lingering pandemic has contributed to the outpouring of positive feedback about his experience with HugAgain.
“The lack of human interaction [has] people craving intimate touch,” he said. “Don’t ever take the little things for granted.”
Kevin visited the students at Arkansas State University to personally thank them for creating the adaptive equipment that made such a huge difference in his life.
“I hope it’s encouraging people to never give up,” Kevin said of his viral video. “I want them to see that after eight years of not being able to hug, I now can again, so don’t ever give up.”
The students are currently in the process of improving the design of HugAgain to make it better. They have also created a Facebook page for the product, where they’ll be posting updates once it’s available to the public.
See Kevin’s heartwarming reaction to being able to hug his grandsons again in the video below.
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