Lucas Eubanks
Lucas Eubanks
For a handful of Mississippi State seniors, designing a toy vehicle will be another grade, but for one Madison family, it will be an opportunity for their son with a muscular condition to move around and play with his friends.

Lucas Eubanks, who will be two in January, has a condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a condition his mother, Lindsey, compares to ALS, though more commonly found in children. He was diagnosed in February of this year.

“It was just a wrenching diagnosis process. He was born healthy but started to decline over the next seven months,” Eubanks said of her son.

Because SMA is both progressive and degenerative, her son lost the ability to sit and roll at nine months of age. Eubanks said that with the assistance of groundbreaking treatment and physical therapy, Lucas has been able to gain back what he lost. However, he is still unable to use his legs. 

“As parents, Christopher (his father) and myself would like Lucas to keep up with his peers. As everyone knows, toddlers are always moving,” Eubanks said.

Eubanks knew movement and play was important to her child’s development. The family started with a small starter wheelchair made out of recycled Bumbo seats. A non-profit in New York called "Bella's Bumbas" builds the seats at no cost to caregivers, saving the family a roughly $600 expense for a piece of equipment their child would quickly outgrow.

“It took a moment to get used to, but the Bella's Bumba was a complete game-changer for Lucas, we noticed a burst in his personality. Soon, he was getting in the refrigerator, stealing maple syrup, and unrolling all the toilet paper in the bathroom,” Eubanks said. “Getting into trouble is exactly what we wanted to happen.”

Christopher Eubanks added that "Mobility equates to freedom for Lucas, so we are incredibly grateful for this opportunity.”

This introduced the concept of movement, something Lucas will have to approach differently than most children. The next step is a motorized vehicle, think a Barbie Jeep or a Power Wheels vehicle. This introduced a new set of problems for the Eubanks. First, the standard product uses foot pedals to accelerate so the vehicle would need modifications. This is where engineering students at Mississippi State’s Bagley College of Engineering come in.

Assistant Professor Wilburn Whittington’s Mechanical System’s Design class, a senior level course, will be designing and modifying a play vehicle for Lucas.

“This is an exciting opportunity,” Whittington said.

Dustin Smith, a grad student working on his masters and the teachers assistant for the course, said that this was a different type of project for the course. He said they usually focus on an industrial level project having partnered with Caterpillar and Milwaukee Tools for other projects.

“When this first came to our attention I think we really jumped on it, it's a great idea,” Smith said. “It all fit really well into what the course is designed to accomplish but was also something different from what we usually do. We hope to have this assigned to a group of students the second week in January when school gets back.”

The vehicle is projected to be finished by April.

With labor covered, the Eubanks still have the challenge of coming up with the money for the vehicle and materials which will be expensive and not covered by insurance.

“It is not deemed medically necessary if it is for play and I think that is kind of ridiculous because play really helps kids build confidence,” Eubanks said.

The Eubanks are raising the money themselves. They still do not have a final number from MSU but have reached out to nonprofits like Go Baby Go who specialize in helping children with mobility issues seek help and treatment and have set up a gofundme page. 

“Our goal is for Lucas to become the poster child for what normalcy can look like in the face of a debilitating condition,” Lindsey said.

To support their efforts to get Lucas a toy vehicle visit https://www.gofundme.com/lucas-eubanks-being-bionic.