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Oakley teen comes 'home' for first time since paralyzing football injury

Published: Friday, Dec. 16 2011 9:09 p.m. MST

Kent Woolstenhulme welcomes his nephew, Porter Hancock, home Dec. 16, 2012, to the house built for the Hancock family in less than eight weeks by volunteers after Porter was paralyzed while playing in a South Summit High School football game on Oct. 7, 2011. Porter had been in the hospital since the accident.

Family photo

OAKLEY, Summit County — Porter Hancock came home — to a new home — on Friday for the first time since being paralyzed from the mid-chest down during a high school football game Oct. 7.

Looking back, Porter said he remembers the moments right after the play where he went down. "I just remember looking up at the sky, and I couldn't feel my arms and legs. I just didn't know what to think."

Looking forward, the 16-year-old has surroundings that will help with his rehabilitation and day-to-day life as he works through a hopeful but uncertain prognosis.

"His therapist said she's never had someone she's worked with leave the hospital doing as much as he's doing on his own, which makes a big difference. When we went in, he was barely moving his arms at all," said Porter's mother, Jill Hancock.

"His doctor said this morning they really don't know what to expect. It can take up to a year for the swelling to come down. He's pretty hopeful. They won't say anything but 'Every little step you take, we'll work with what you've got.' We're hoping for a fully recovery, but it'll take a long time, I think."

Friday's homecoming was a private affair with only a handful of friends and family members. But if the walls of the new home could talk, they would speak volumes about the care and concern the Hancock family has witnessed since Porter was injured making a tackle for the South Summit High football team.

Family and friends recognized that Porter, in a wheel chair, wouldn't make it past the front door of the split-level home the family lived in — not to mention the narrow halls and small doorways. So a community initiative to build a brand new home was a finished reality when Porter got out of the hospital Friday.

About 100 skilled workers and contractors have contributed to the project. Football team members from the University of Utah, Brigham Young University, Utah State University, Weber State University and several high schools also helped, raising the new house in just eight weeks.

"When I came through the door, I was speechless. I didn't know what to think. I couldn't wait to get out of the hospital, being stuck in the same room for two months," Porter said. "I couldn't sleep at all last night. I just want to say 'thank you' to everybody, most of you I don't even know. It is very overwhelming."

"It's amazing and so unreal that people would do so much for our family," his mother said.

Andy Woolstenhulme, Porter's uncle, said the family has many many people to thank, "but all asked to remain anonymous." Workers were doing finish work just hours before Porter came home on Friday. Volunteers were cleaning right up until Porter's arrival. "It was pretty cool to see the look on his face. I think he was a little overwhelmed. It was pretty emotional," Woolstenhulme said.

Porter's bedroom is decorated with the colors and emblems of his football favorite, the University of Texas. A built-in therapy room will make it easier for Porter to continue his rehabilitation.

Already Porter's gone from saying he would miss the rest of the school year to thinking he might be back sometime in January, his mother said. And Friday night, he had friends over to hang out and play video games.

Porter's mother said "determination" describes one of Porter's long-exhibited character traits. "He's always had it, but I've definitely seen it blossom."

The ordeal since Porter was injured has involved the whole family — Porter's mom and his three sisters. All are getting used to their new surroundings.

The prayers, kind words and visits — "We can't say thank you enough," Jill Hancock said. "It's amazing what a visit will do for a 16-year-old."

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