Students Invent Device Allowing Stroke Patient to Hug Grandkids for First Time

The HugAgain was created by a group of occupational therapy assistant students at Arkansas State University.

Photo: Courtesy of HugAgain

There's nothing quite like giving a big bear hug to someone you love. A group of occupational therapy assistant students at Arkansas State University is working to give that feeling back to those who have lost motor function after suffering a stroke, paralysis, or other health conditions.

Occupational therapy assistant students Erica Dexter, Larissa Garcia, Lisa James, and Casey Parsons created the HugAgain after their professor Emily Sisco challenged them to create a piece of adaptive equipment for her father, Kevin Eubanks, who suffered a stroke eight years ago.

To complete the assignment, the students interviewed Eubanks, inquiring about things he missed doing since he lost the use of his left arm.

"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."

The resourceful students put their heads together and created a long strap that is Velcroed around an individual's weak arm and grabbed with their other hand to wrap around another person.

Courtesy of HugAgain

The invention was a huge hit with Eubanks, and his heartwarming reaction to the device caught the attention of millions across the globe after his daughter shared it on her Facebook page. In the now-viral video, you can see Sisco share the HugAgain with her father and watch him test it out on his two grandsons. After embracing his grandchildren with both arms for the first time, he breaks down into tears.

"I love it," he says in the video, addressing the thoughtful students. "I appreciate everything y'all have done. This is a dream of mine."

Sisco ended her caption on the post by writing, "My dad now is able to do something that he never though he would get to do again. And that my friends is Occupational Therapy. Taking what may seem impossible and making it possible again."

After the enormous positive response, the students are focused on building off their prototype to create a durable and affordable product that can help others like Eubanks.

"It means the world to us to know that we could have some small part in helping people be able to hug their loved ones again," Dexter said.

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