By Carolyn Myers
Chase Fawcett on his gaited horse, Freckles.
He’s just under 6 ft. tall, weighs about 190 lbs., works on the ranch with his father, loves music, plays drums, studies about subjects that interest him, has an extensive vocabulary, rides his four-wheeler and Viking Side-by-Side, is kind to animals and helps out around the house with chores.
When he was born three months prematurely, doctors in Children’s Hospital in Little Rock would have given zero odds on his growing up to be able to do any of those things. In fact, his parents were told that he would most likely be blind, deaf and mentally retarded. His parents have worked hard to help him overcome the challenges everyday living brings. Chase Fawcett is a shining example of what can be accomplished when a mother just will not take such a diagnosis as the only future her child can have. Chase’s parents made a choice to give their child an extraordinary life by doing everything within their power to make him aware of his capabilities, rather than his limitations.
Brett and Teresa Fawcett were stunned when Teresa went into labor at six months; she had not experienced any problems at all during the pregnancy. While being airlifted to Little Rock, she had been given a drug to try to keep her from going into full labor, but to no avail. The following day, Friday, March 13, 1987, she gave birth to a baby weighing 3 lb. 2 oz. and who was 12 in. long, a big baby to have come that early. The following day, Saturday, Teresa was released and the couple came home to get clothes and other items necessary for a few days stay. The hospital called that night advising them to come back as soon as possible. Things weren’t looking good for little Chase. They rushed to get back to their child. While going through an overpass, Teresa saw graffiti that said in large letters, TRUST JESUS. The words seemed to calm her and she felt a reassurance that things were going to be fine, that she shouldn’t worry. They got to the hospital and Chase was still alive. He stayed on a ventilator for six weeks. A week later, the parents learned baby Chase had a heart murmur. That was the least of the baby’s problems.
It was a couple of weeks before Teresa could get a room at McDonald House near the hospital where she could stay while Chase was in care, so she and Brett stayed at a motel for a while. Brett had to go back to work but Teresa stayed almost three months in the Ronald McDonald House to be near to Chase.
With each passing day it seemed the news got worse. Chase had leaks (bleeding) in the ventricles of his brain. The leaks were classified as being Grade 1 through Grade 4. Chase had a Grade 3 on the right side and a Grade 4 on the left side. The right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, just as the left side controls the right side of the body. Consequently, as an adult, the left side of Chase’s body is more developed than the right side. One leg is a little shorter than the other and the muscles in his right leg and arm are not as fully developed as on the left side.
Bleeding in the baby’s head had clogged the part of his anatomy that drains the spinal fluid; the fluid was building up in his brain, potentially causing brain damage. The fluid had to be drained with a shunt behind his right ear. The shunt was attached to tubing coiled into his stomach. As the child, who was 12 in. long, continued to grow, the tubing would begin to straighten out and at some point need to be changed. He might outgrow the need for the tubing, his body might become able to allow the shunt to drain on its own but he would always have to have the shunt.
As the years went by and the baby grew, there were those times when the tubing had to be changed – a revision – and that usually brought problems. Also, the shunt had to be changed and it took days to get Chase acclimated to the effects of the new shunt. He would be so sick that sometimes he couldn’t raise his head without being nauseous.
However, time went on and Chase grew like he was supposed to. He rode on the horse with his dad, and had fun playing learning games with his mother. Teresa worked with him constantly to help him advance. By the time he was two, he could sing songs from memory that he heard on the radio and knew his alphabet. He started to school and, with some modifications in some classes, he did well. He made the honor roll most nine weeks. Throughout high school, he made A’s, B’s and C’s. Chase’s parents were delighted with his work and were justifiably proud of their child.
Chase’s medical problems might have slowed down but had not disappeared. During his teens Chase had to have the shunt changed a second time, afterward becoming was so nauseous he couldn’t eat and he couldn’t raise his head. He had to stay in the hospital for two weeks. The doctors said that the only thing they could do was put in a programmable shunt, which Teresa didn’t want to have done because the shunt was magnetic. Brett was a pilot and Chase was his co-pilot. They wore ear phones that were magnetized. The magnetic shunt would interfere with being his father’s co-pilot. But she relented and the programmable shunt was inserted. After that, the family was at the hospital for only a couple of days and the shunt has worked well since.
Chase, in his life so far, has had many operations. In addition to the shunt and revision surgeries, he had hernia surgery at one month old, heel cord surgery to lengthen the heel so he would not walk tip-toed on his shorter leg, he had to wear a brace to keep the heel down, and he had to have surgery for a lazy eye. But, according to his parents, Chase has come through marvelously!
Chase is 32 now, he lives at home but works on their ranches, helping out with whatever needs to be done. He really likes gathering cattle and “working” them – dosing them with necessary medicines and dehorning and such. He talked about the ranch work he enjoys so much.
“One of the things I look forward to the most is when we gather cattle. We do use four-wheelers sometimes but I prefer to be on a horse because when you’re out there on a four-wheeler, the engines are screaming and the cattle get spooked real easy at times. If you’re on a horse, you just kind of ease along with them and stay a lot quieter and they’re easier to work. I will say that if there is one thing everybody else wants me to be around for, it’s when we’re working a set of mama cows and babies. I’m usually one of the main ones who pushes up the baby calves. (Here Chase is talking about the process of penning cows with calves and separating them as necessary. The cows are made to go through a chute so that they can be vaccinated, wormed, etc. whatever needs to be done. The baby calves follow and usually have to be pushed through the passage of the chute to be doctored also.)
Chase continues, “We usually have a few people that are up front giving shots. We’ll give them a wormer. Sometimes you might have a yearling come through that’s starting to grow some horns so we’ll dehorn them. But mostly Dad has me work to the side punching them up or he’ll have me go to the back and bring them up. In the past we have had some cows that might weigh 1000-1200 lbs. Dad won’t allow me to get back there with him because you’ve got to be quick on your feet, especially if you’ve got one that’s wild in there. I’m pretty quick but if you’ve got that wild one in there, it might take me a second before I’m able to get up on the fence.”
Chase likes music, mostly country and rock, maybe a little bit of pop. He especially likes a song called “Wild at Heart” by the group, Gloriana. He is a big fan of Elvis Presley.
He and his family now attend Central Baptist Church where he accompanies the piano, guitar and bass guitar on his drums. They formerly attended Crossroads Community Baptist Church when they still lived in Winthrop. It was their home church for most of their lives.
The Fawcett family has faced tremendous challenges, always with their focus on helping Chase become the best individual he can be. They are proud of their strong, healthy, intelligent son. He lives a productive, industrious, creative life today because of Brett and Teresa’s faith and determination to fight against the odds of Chase’s birth. Their son is living proof that they were able to beat the odds.