Josh Hinton, a Stansbury Park, Utah native and incoming freshman, lined up for a bounce house obstacle course on the last day of BYU New Student Orientation on Aug. 29. Using his skills as a track and cross-country runner, Josh was off at the sound of “Go.”
“I dove through the tunnel (at the beginning of the course) and immediately didn’t feel anything,” said Josh, an 18-year-old from Stansbury Park, Utah. “I don’t know what I hit.”
Josh laid still. He knew something was wrong. He directed friends, who had gathered around the mesh sides of the bounce house, to call his family.
“We didn’t know if (the caller) was serious,” said Kailyn Hinton, Josh’s second oldest sister. After receiving confirmation from their mom, Kailyn and Ashlyn, Josh’s oldest sister, were off to the hospital.
The ambulance arrived at BYU and the paramedics deflated the bounce house and loaded Josh onto a gurney. Despite the fact that he couldn’t feel his body, Josh kept his trademark smile and humor. After Josh fell asleep, the doctor’s diagnosis was given: Josh had fractured two vertebrae and shattered another one in his neck. He was paralyzed from the chest down.
Josh was rushed to surgery, while his family waited, praying he would be OK.
“They were telling us that ‘He’s not going to walk again, he’s not going to dance again, this is life changing, his life is over, he will probably never be able to breath,’” said Jenifer Hinton, Josh’s mom. In addition to being a runner, Josh is a ballet dancer and spent last summer at the Anaheim Ballet School. But Jenifer said she was confident the surgery would fix it all.
“I never knew what was wrong till I woke up four days later in the ICU,” said Josh.
While Josh remained unconscious, the Hintons began to spread the news of his injury. Support flooded in through their Facebook page, Team Hinton.
While friends and family expressed sorrow, more than half of the posts referred to their personal feelings about Josh and the influence he has had on them. Soon the hashtags #prayforJosh, #TeamHinton, and #everyoneneedsaJoshHinton began to trend.
Josh had to stay in the ICU for three weeks as his body tried to recover. In the ICU, Josh received a few special visitors.
Alex Boye, the famous Mormon performer, Josh’s favorite singer, stopped by for a two-hour visit. The visit consisted of talking, selfies, and singing.
Another special visitor was Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. Elder Oaks’ wife, Sister Kristen M. Oaks, accompanied him.
Jenifer remembers Elder Oaks explaining to Josh that the church leaders would hold onto Josh’s mission call and Josh would receive it when he was ready.
Sister Oaks shared some thoughts too. “(Sister Oaks) just looked at (Josh) and said ‘You have such a light coming from you, I just went to the MTC and spoke to all these missionaries … but you have the biggest light,’” recalled Ashlyn.
Sister Oaks was not the only one to notice a light coming from Josh. After three weeks in the ICU, Josh, his parents and youngest sister, traveled to Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado, which specializes in brain trauma and spinal injuries. A nurse had previously traveled to Utah to see if Josh qualified for their programs.
“She said she just felt a light coming from me, so they had to have me,’” recalled Josh. Though the physical therapy was difficult and frustrating, Josh worked hard on increasing mobility in his arms and the fingers he could move. As time progressed, Josh began to recognize people touching all of his fingers, as well as his toes. This, along with other progress, has brought excitement to the Hinton family.
Josh’s story of recovery has affected the hundreds of people who have joined and who have heard about Team Hinton. Team Hinton isn’t just about giving support to Josh; it is about learning from him.
A broken neck didn’t spurt Josh into a role model position; he starred in that role for many years.
“Everything I did (was) to help others.” Josh said. He was a friend to all and strove to help them in any way he could. One way Josh served was participating in ballroom dance and ballet as the programs needed male participants. Another way he served was by giving advice to people who were stressed. Jenifer said Josh had an innate ability to see things clearly.
Every day Josh has a new video posted on Team Hinton. Frequently Josh delivers messages to inspire and help others.
“I think people should like themselves more. My body doesn’t even work, and I still like myself,” Josh said. “Even if just smiling right now is what I can do, then I’m going to do it. It brings me joy.”
Josh’s rapid recovery is a miracle to the many people who are praying and cheering for him. As far as the Hinton family is concerned, Josh will not allow his injury to get in the way of an education at BYU and a full-time mission for the LDS Church once he recovers, and activities he loves, like dance. Despite possibly loosing movement in his legs forever, Josh said, “Even if all I have is feeling in my left pinky, I would be dancing again.”