Today on CURE NATION, we share Eric Chase’s perspective on being newly injured with SCI plus how he redefined his world as a father who rolls. Below, Eric discusses his journey to fatherhood after paralysis with our blog writer and C6 quadriplegic Chad Waligura.
“Will I still be able to have kids?” was Eric’s first panicked question to his parents after becoming paralyzed in a dirt bike accident as a teenager. “It was the first thing I wanted to know,” Eric says. “I grew up in a big family, and I loved kids, and it’s something I always knew I wanted someday. Even at seventeen years old, I knew it.”
“Of course you will,” Eric’s parents replied with a comfort in knowing their son could achieve anything he set his mind to.
ERIC WAS RAISED AS A FARM BOY
Eric Chase grew up on a farm in Hastings, Michigan, just as any All-American boy would, hunting and fishing and riding dirt bikes. He was into sports and enjoyed helping out on his uncle’s dairy farm during the summer until that fateful day when life changed suddenly.
He was injured at the C-6/7 level, put in a halo and sent to Mary Free Bed Rehab Hospital in Grand Rapids, MI for three months of treatment.
After discharge, Eric stayed active. He continued outpatient therapy and got involved in wheelchair rugby. He also had an accessible deer blind built for him by three local policemen so he could get back into the woods near his home.
After finishing high school post-SCI, Eric continued his education and moved to East Lansing and Michigan State to study Agricultural Industries, then to Ferris State for a Bachelors Degree in Business Management.
“I lived on my own and had a great time in college,” Eric confirms. “I joined a fraternity so I had a lot of brothers.”In 2010, Eric got serious with rugby. He played on the Michigan Storm Team and traveled all over the country. After two years of playing, Eric was invited to put on a clinic in Grand Rapids for the Mary Free Bed Recreational Sports Department. It’s where he met a Rec Therapist student named Brianna. Before he left that day, Eric got her number and they started dating soon after.
Brianna was going to school at Grand Valley State University and Eric worked at a Fertilizer Seed Company while they both finished up their undergraduate studies. A year and a half later they were engaged.
In 2011, Eric made the National Wheelchair Rugby Team where he traveled to Denmark and Australia. “I was traveling so much with rugby that I quit my job and started working at the family insurance business,” Eric reports. “That made it easier for me to do both.”
FIRST THERE’S ERIC AND BRI, BABY MAKES THREE
Eric and Bri were busy with their new lives together and everything seemed to be falling in line. They were married in 2012, purchased a home and were almost ready to start a family. Then in 2013, Eric didn’t make the National Team and it was time to settle down.
“I think we did like most people do and tried on our own first,” Eric states. “When that didn’t work, we went to a fertility doctor.”
Working with a fertility doctor helped guide them through the process and made it convenient and exciting. It was actually pretty simple using the fertility doctors’ IUI process. Nine months later, their son Emmett was born.
“I thought life was busy before kids, but you don’t know,” Eric says while laughing.
“Of course I had doubts about being able to take care of a baby, but I had my rugby-playing buddies to thank for their help. Some of them had kids and they gave me a lot of good advice. I was able to adapt. Before I knew it, I was learning how to hold a baby in one hand and prepare a bottle with the other.”
In 2017, daughter Avalee came along too.
ERIC SHARES THE JOYS OF BEING A DAD TO TWO CHILDREN
“Ok, so about diaper changing….We bought a work desk that I could roll under,” Eric details. “Before I did anything, I’d get about 10 wipes ready, then I’d put the baby on the desk and distract ‘em with a toy.”
“I could pull the tabs off with my hands and lift their legs up to get ‘em cleaned up and the new diaper on. Yes, I used my teeth to get the tabs tight on the new one. That’s common knowledge among quad dads.”
“Whenever I knew I’d be taking care of them, they were always in stretchy pants to make it easier for me to get ‘em on and off. And I was with them a lot.”
“I drop them off at Day Care and pick them up after work so I’m the guy driving the minivan with my kids in the car seats,” Eric says with a grin.“And yes, I was nervous about detaching the car seat, putting it in my lap with my child in it and getting into my house without dropping them. That’s not easy to do during winter in Michigan when it’s snowing. I used a strap that I could put in my mouth to keep it on my lap while I rolled up the ramp. I got pretty good at it.”“Baby number two definitely changed the game,” Eric tells, “but I had more confidence about taking care of a baby when she came at least. I’d say the hardest part of parenting for me is the multitasking, that and trying to appease both kids at once. We spaced them out though so it’d be easier for us. Emmett is old enough now to help me carry things and help out.”
ADJUSTING TO THE LIFE ERIC ALWAYS DREAMED OF
“The IUI cost me $300 to have my son. By the time we had Avalee it went up to $600,” Eric jokes. “They get more expensive after that.”
“Another difficult thing for me is being able to follow Emmett everywhere he goes. He likes to ‘explore’ sometimes, and in places I can’t follow. I’ve learned how to talk him back in though. Sometimes I’ll even bribe him with ice cream to get him back,” Eric laughs.
“Emmett’s getting to that age now where he’s wanting me to do some things with him that I physically can’t do. That’s gut-wrenching for me sometimes,” Eric laments, “but I do as much as I can and we adapt. He still thinks I’m going to get better someday.”
AT THE END OF THE DAY, ERIC AGREES IT’s ALL WORTH IT
“Parenting is tiring!” Eric admits. “I used to lift weights, bike ride and play rugby. Now it’s giving baths, reading books and chasing kids around. We’re also building a new house, all-accessible of course. Yes, you could say I’m all-in on the family thing right now,” Eric says with a smile.
Eric’s wife Bri still works at a local hospital doing Occupational Therapy for the general public. Eric sells Home, Auto & Farm Insurance. Together, they’re both independent and supportive of each other and they both expect a lot from each other.
Eric and his wife have a busy schedule managing full time jobs, children and new home build, but in the end, he agrees their hectic schedules are worth it as proud parents.
“Bri definitely makes sure I’m independent at home,” Eric says. “She’s always been helpful pulling, pushing or lifting me to get to inaccessible places, but she doesn’t give me any breaks when it’s a task she knows I can do.”Eric is right where he’s always wanted to be, and we are honored to share his story with you as encouragement for the CURE NATION!
eRIC CHASE SHARES HIS THOUGHTS ON CURE MEDICAL
When it comes to recommending ethical organizations, Eric knows how important it is to share the Cure Commitment with people who are new to Cure products.
“A company like Cure, which donates to actively researching SCI, is important because they give back to their customers in a unique way. Donating back to SCI Research will not only help Cure product customers but [also will] assist future individuals to recover faster and provide more opportunities for their injury outcomes,” Eric explains.
“I know several quadriplegics that have started their own company like Bob Yant did with Cure Medical. You can tell they not only give back to their customers and donate to local organizations, but they truly have a different mindset when it comes to helping others with disabilities. They understand what it’s like day in and out to manage the complex world we live in,” Eric adds.
Try a Free Cure Catheter Sample and compare the smoothness of our eyelets next to what you are currently using. You can feel the difference!
MEET BOB YANT: CURE MEDICAL’S FOUNDER
Founded by a quadriplegic, Cure Medical is the only catheter manufacturer in the world that donates the first 10% of its net income to support research programs in pursuit of a cure for urinary retention, paralysis, spinal cord injury and central nervous system disorders.
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