The New York Times reported a story concerning the paralysis of a prominent college basketball coach and the cause of his paralysis that sometimes gets overlooked— Guillian-Barré Syndrome.

“What happened to me is just the luck of the draw,” said Mike Sutton, head basketball coach of Tennessee Tech.  “Besides, it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you deal with it.”

Our firm’s San Diego paralysis lawyers know this all too well.

Tennessee Tech head coach Mike Sutton hasn’t let paralysis from GBS slow him down. (Source: Life)

Mike Sutton grew up in North Carolina, around some of the kings of the basketball court, and looked up to Basketball Hall-Of-Fame coach, Dean Smith.  His head was always in the game, but Sutton’s knowledge and skills really paid off when he was an assistant coach under head coach Orlando “Tubby” Smith, who guided the Kentucky Wildcats to the NCAA Championship in 1998.

Sutton’s great run continued all the way through April of 2005, after he had taken over as the head coach at Tennessee Tech.  He had just been named coach of the year for the Ohio Valley Conference—after the Golden Eagles to won a conference title—when he was almost completely paralyzed.  It was not from a car accident, nor anything involving a high-impact on his spinal cord or brain, but rather from a rare neurological disease known as Guillian-Barré Syndrome (GBS).

GBS affects about 100,000 people, with the outcomes on the human body ranging from minor incomplete paralysis to complete paralysis without recovery.  The condition attacks the peripheral nerves around your spinal cord and brain, often making it hard for your hands to grip objects and your legs to support your upper body.  Sometimes breathing even becomes difficult, usually requiring the use a ventilator.

Despite all of this and even as a 53-year-old, Sutton seems to be doing a great job at overcoming the odds of paralysis.  Though he must walk with a cane and use leg braces, Sutton is still the head coach at Tennessee Tech.

Sutton credits his wife, Karen, for his success.  She didn’t just nurse him back to health during paralysis treatments, but the next year she flew to Las Vegas with him for a scouting conference.  In close to 120-degree heat, Karen drove him around the desert so that he could watch a player for 30 minutes, make up his mind, and get back into the van to go check out another player.

Even though it put a strain on their relationship, Mike and Karen are thankful that, through teamwork, Mike was able to continue his career despite his paralysis.

Nothing is easy these days for Sutton but don’t expect him to complain about it.  Though the Golden Eagles saw a drop in their wins since Sutton became ill, the team is fighting for a winning record this year.  With the extra help from his family and the support of his team, Sutton is able to continue living with paralysis and not let his physical condition overtake his goals in life.

If you or a loved one have been involved in an accident and suffered a spinal cord injury or paralysis, we urge you to contact our bilingual offices as soon as possible following the accident at 1-858-551-2090 or please click here for a free consultation with an experienced paralysis lawyer in San Diego.  We handle all cases on a contingency fee basis, which means that you owe us nothing until we recover money on your behalf.