Prep football | Braden River football player recovering after paralysis scare

Chase Fisher won't play again, but paralysis scare gives new perspective

adell@bradenton.comOctober 11, 2012 

The world seemed to stop for Chase Fisher as he lay helpless on the football field at Braden River High School.

He could not move his limbs, and the only thing he could hear were faint voices that sounded as if they were far off.

But his mind raced with a fury. He thought about how it would be to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

"It was the scariest moment I will ever have in my life. The first thing that came to my mind is 'Chase you are paralyzed,'" he said three weeks later.

The Braden River senior was getting ready for the last play of a Sept. 7 football game against North Port. It was his mother's birthday, and he was looking forward to going out for dinner with her to celebrate.

Then his world came to a screeching halt.

Fisher was sandwiched between two tacklers as he attempted to make a block. One hit him from behind, the other from the front.

He was knocked to the ground and lost consciousness. About 60 seconds later, he awoke lying on the field. Braden River trainer Katie Gallagher and Fisher's mother, Debbie, were among those kneeling over him. He could not feel anything, but he could think and knew his situation had turned horrific.

They wanted to medevac him to Tampa, but Fisher said no. Even in this time of need, he did not want to put any more stress on his mother.

Fisher's 30-year-old sister died less than a year ago from an illness. His father, Bill, was suffering from cancer and had undergone several surgeries. Medical expenses were piling up.

"I didn't want to put my family through more medical bills," Fisher said. "About eight years ago, I broke my femur in a four-wheeler accident, and it cost my family $10,000 to have me flown" to a trauma center in Tampa.

This time, Fisher was transported to the Blake Medical Center in Bradenton. He was placed in a trauma unit and medicated. He went to sleep believing he would never walk again.

An MRI on Saturday morning showed Fisher had broken two vertebrae. He went back to sleep.

When he woke up around 2 later in the afternoon, things inside his body were changing rapidly.

"My mom said she saw my toes moving. She ran and called a nurse, who got the doctor," Fisher said. "The doctor came and said it was a miracle. I was ecstatic and started crying. My mom was hysterical. She said this was the best birthday present of her life. I was thinking that I was going to be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. God gave me a second chance."

Debbie Fisher said the time of her son's injury to the moment that Sunday when he could take a wobbly walk inside the halls of the hospital were the longest two days of her life.

"When the injury occurred my first reaction was this can't be happening," Debbie Fisher said. "It was an injury as a parent you think about, but you don't think will happen to you. He had played football since the sixth grade and never had a big injury."

Debbie Fisher stayed by her son through Friday night. In the morning when he awoke, she pinched his leg and he screamed with pain. It was the best sound she ever heard.

"I had been pinching his leg all night and he said nothing. When he said 'ow' I knew we were home free," she said. "I was so happy. It was a waiting game for awhile. He had a broken back. The doctors told us we were very lucky because when a person comes in with that much paralysis they usually don't get all that motion back."

She said her son was diagnosed with a spinal contusion. The hit he took on the frontal lobe of his brain caused him to lose feeling in his legs, which are the last part of the body to wake up. She credits Gallagher for making a lot of the recovery possible.

"If it wasn't for her fast action, things could've been worse for him. She told everyone, 'Don't take his helmet off.' I think that was crucial," Debbie Fisher said. "She made sure he was strapped down and secure before they took him off the field, and his helmet was not removed until they got to the hospital and he had a neck brace on."

One of the happiest people was Fisher's father, Bill, who has had to undergo numerous surgeries on his back because of his cancer.

"We had lost our daughter and then we feared he would be paralyzed from the neck down. It was a little more than you could bear," Bill Fisher said.

Debbie Fisher was no stranger to tragedy. She played on the 1981 girls basketball state championship team at Southeast in 1981 under Buzz Narbut, who was killed two years later in a car accident.

Chase Fisher says he is about 75 percent back mentally, and physically he is getting better.

The incident will leave a lasting imprint on his life.

"It showed me that I am surrounded by a community of people who care. I am closer to people now, and it's crazy how many friendships I developed," he said. "Coach (Curt) Bradley was with me at the hospital and was next to my side with every process I went through. Katie Gallagher really helped me. I couldn't have gotten through this without her.

"I can never play football again, but I am glad that I did, and if I have kids I am going to let them play. You live life with no regrets. If this didn't happen, I wouldn't know what real friends are. You have positive thoughts and negative thoughts, and I like to think about the positive thoughts all the time."

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