Paralyzed coach making a difference

Paralyzed coach making a difference
David Buller coaches his Upward basketball team from his wheelchair. (Source: KPLC)

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - When a terrible hunting accident nearly killed 68-year-old David Buller, his recovery was nothing short of a miracle.  In spite of tremendous challenges, he has been able to return to one of his first loves: the basketball court.

Growing up in the community of Fenton, Buller says everyone played basketball.

After serving in Vietnam, he decided to become a high school basketball coach.

"I coached for 17 years and then I got into administration, became a principal, and was director of high schools in Calcasieu Parish for a few years," he said.

In his off time, Buller's hobbies were fishing and hunting.  It was on a deer hunt in November 2015, when his life changed forever.    

"We think that I went to get down from the treestand and either I passed out or I tripped and I fell," said Buller.

That fall was from about 12 feet, hitting limbs and metal, before slamming onto the ground.

"My body was completely twisted," he said.  "My legs were under my body.  My back had hit some little sapling trees and it kind of impaled my back."

Buller broke his neck, back, eight ribs, and part of his spine.  He would spend months in a body cast and more months in recovery, regaining use of his upper body, but not his legs.

It was in the hospital that Buller says God showed him a new purpose.

"I get kind of emotional now," he said, "It's kind of like the Holy Spirit said, 'We've got some work for you to do.'"

Some of that work is being done in a familiar place: the hardwood.  Buller is teaching seven and eight-year-old boys how to play basketball - from his wheelchair - with the Upward Basketball league at Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles.

"I was just surprised," said player, Braylan Woods, explaining his thought the first time he saw his new coach.  "I didn't know we would do this good!"

Players like Woods and Elijah Daughterty did not know what to think when they first met their coach.  But Coach Buller, and his wife/assistant coach, Vickie, say it was a natural fit."

"I like it [basketball] and I think I know something about it," said Buller, "and I feel like I've got something to offer."

That something is more than a jump shot or dribbling technique.  It is a life lesson this coach lives out every day.

"Don't give up, because even though you're knocked down, you can still get back up and be okay and start getting back in the game," said player, Daugherty.

"Look at me," said Buller.  "I could lay down and say, 'I'm not doing anything.  I don't have to, so I'm just going to lay here.' God doesn't want you to do that, because there's a purpose.  You don't just lay down and give up.  You get up there and you try again."

Doctors have given Buller about a five to ten percent chance of walking again one day.  He has started to feel some sensations in his legs, but says he knows he will walk again if that is the purpose God has for him.

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