PROVO — Josh Hinton wheels himself into a room full of waiting doctors and nurses — a feat that didn't seem possible a little more than four months ago when he was on a ventilator, wearing a neck brace and in critical condition.
"I don't know how you can say, 'Thank you for saving a life,'" Hinton told the medical staff Thursday at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.
His mother, Jen Hinton, placed a basket full of treats on his lap. He handed it to one of the doctors.
"This is a basket of all of my favorite things," Josh Hinton said, "to say, 'Thanks for saving my life.'"
Jen Hinton pushed back tears, as one by one members of the trauma team who saved her son shook his hand and hugged him.
Josh Hinton was a ballet dancer and student body president at Stansbury High School in Stansbury Park. At BYU freshman orientation Aug. 29, he ran through a bounce house obstacle course, hit his head on an inflatable post and broke his neck.
He spent 3 ½ weeks in intensive care at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, followed by three months at the Craig Hospital in Denver.
"Tell them who your physical therapist was at Craig," prompted his mother.
He answered with a smile, "Miss Colorado 2007." The room erupted in laughter, as staff members agreed that must have been "highly motivating."
The rapport at the reunion was instant. He reached out his arms and did a little shimmy that he called his new dance move.
"It's what I've got," he said.
Josh Hinton was a ballet dancer who spent time training at the Anaheim Ballet. He still hopes to minor in dance when he returns to BYU in the fall. He also wanted to be a doctor before the accident, but those plans changed.
"Now that I've spent time in a hospital, I don't want to be a doctor," he said to more laughter.
Adam Phillips, his physician assistant who spent the most time with him, joked, "So you're saying we're insane?"
"Yeah, a little bit," Josh Hinton said.
While he said he didn't recover any more muscle movement at Craig Hospital in Denver, all his abilities are stronger, including moving his arms and wrists. He also has muted feeling all the way down to his feet, he said, which doctors agree is a very good sign.
At Neuroworx in Sandy later the same day, while suspended in a harness and with assistance, Josh Hinton walked on a treadmill. He spends five days a week there doing physical therapy.
It all adds up to baby steps of steady progress. Another important part of his recovery is his family support. His sisters lift him up when he's feeling down without even knowing it, he said.
As Josh Hinton hugged a hospital technician, his mother wiped away tears.
"It is amazing to talk to people who saved your child," Jen Hinton said. "How do you ever thank someone for that? … I will love them forever."
With 3,500 members of Team Hinton on Facebook, Josh Hinton has become an inspiration.
And he is not shy about sharing the final element that he believes has aided in his recovery: his Mormon faith.
"So much of it comes from the faith that I have that God is in control," he said. "I believed in God before the accident, and I still believe in God. I just rely on him more now."