FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — A 16-year-old and former West Forsyth High School swimmer whose future was forever changed after a trampoline accident is back home.
Back in June, less than a week after a spinal injury left him paralyzed from the chest down, FIX8 caught up with Hank Allen.
It’s been six weeks of rehab for Hank at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte. Now, he is starting his new life.
Tuesday was the first time Hank has been back home since the accident.
“Just taking everything in. Just the change and the issues that come along with it like blood pressure and getting used to the way that I am,” Hank said.
While the person he is externally has changed, the person internally has not.
“I’m very thankful that I’m still here. I may not have my legs or some of my arms, but in my heart, I’m still here,” Hank said.
The Allens tell FOX8 the staff at Levine formed a bond with them, so leaving the rehabilitation center was bittersweet. The staff members even threw Hank a celebration for his 16th birthday a couple of weeks before his homecoming.
His parents have moved him downstairs to their master bedroom, making it more accessible for Hank. Inside is a hospital bed and decorations filling the room with words of affirmation. They’re currently working on adding new showers.
“When this first happened, everything seemed super hopeless for us,” said Abbey Allen, Hank’s mom.
His mom said she started to gain hope after speaking to moms who were in similar situations.
“The first thing I said was, ‘Find me a mom. I need to speak to someone who has lived this,’” she said. “They (the hospital) found one.”
Abby said they don’t meet the requirements for Social Security benefits because it hasn’t been three months since Hank’s accident.
“Hank can’t get home health care. He needs 24-hour care. He has to be turned every two hours throughout the night,” she said. “Just the thought of burning the candle at both ends is just so daunting as a parent.”
It even encouraged her to start doing more advocating for families who have children with disabilities. Abby said she has reached out to lawmakers to get some of the requirements changed in hopes of making a difference for parents going through similar struggles.
“It’s not just my son, there are other kids out there who have the same exact situation, who maybe aren’t as fortunate as we are because our community has stepped up for us,” she said.
“Witnessing it firsthand in the hospital, some of the kids that I can see are going to struggle for a very long time. And the worry on their parents faces, ‘How are we going to do this?’ That to me, is just heartbreaking. If I could be an advocate — if I can be someone to help push something through, then I’m going to do that because I feel like this is what I’m called to do,” Abby said.
While Hank is getting stronger every day, learning how to eat alone and push himself in a wheelchair, he’s hoping to regain a newfound sense of independence.
For Hank, speaking to people with similar injuries to his helps gives him more hope too.
“There’s been some with injuries similar to mine and just had their injury last year and are in their own apartment doing all their care for themselves and that gives me hope — knowing that that’s right around the corner,” he said.
Hank has since found a rugby team for people who are paralyzed. He tells FOX8 he also plans to re-learn how to swim and bike.
While this injury has shaped what he wants to pursue as a career in, his plans for the future haven’t been dimmed.
“I would like to get into sales, either that or I could still be an electrical engineer, maybe work towards that,” Hank said.