‘Miracle Child’ tees it up alongside PGA TOUR stars in Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic pro-am
November 6, 2012
By Doug Milne, PGA TOUR staff
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.- Working as security for this week’s Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, Neil Parkin noticed the kid putting in the professional practice area that the retired Airborne and Special Services warrior was securing on Monday.
“Does he belong out there,” Parkin inquired. “Who is he?”
“He absolutely belongs out there,” someone nearby replied. “He’s our Miracle Child.”
As America lies in wait with a collectively held breath for news of the country’s next commander-in-chief later today, November 6, 2012 has no doubt become the most anticipated date in recent history. In Lake Buena Vista, Fla, a family celebrates a birthday on this same day which has come to fruition through equal parts of faith, hope and perseverance. At day’s end, America will have a new President, and the Fullman’s will have a 17 year-old son.
September, 14, 2010 began as any other day for the then 14 year-old Chandler Fullman. It ended differently. As a freshman at Hoover High School in Hoover, Ala., Fullman’s goal was both bold and admirable; make the high school golf team. But then the blood came and the goal changed. Just live.
During physical education class, Fullman suddenly lost consciousness and collapsed. By the time he reached Children's of Alabama, he had slipped into a coma which would last an agonizing 17 days.
“For nearly three weeks, we didn’t know if he was going to live or die,” his father Terry remembered. “It was like a roller coaster. One day he was better, the next he got worse.”
Fullman had suffered a massive brain bleed known as arteriovenous malformation, caused by a ruptured tangle of blood vessels. Unbeknownst to anyone, the teenager was born with the condition. For 56 days, he laid in a hospital bed, at times seemingly likely to die because of that condition.
“As a parent, you never think anything like this is going to happen to your child,” his mother Lisa said. “We just relied on faith and hope that things were going to be ok. But, the truth was, we were unable to be assured of that. The only goal doctors could tell us to have was to get to tomorrow, to take it day by day.”
As fate would have it, Fullman was ok. Faith and hope, the Fullman’s are convinced, had shone through. But there were obstacles, and that’s when the Fullman’s perseverance kicked in.
“He had to learn again to walk, talk, eat and even sit,” Terry said. His coming out of the coma produced precarious issues, as well. Chandler had become addicted to the drugs used to treat him, forcing sedation. At times, he was deliberately put back into a coma. “He fought it, acted ugly and got physical,” his mother recalled. Once out of the coma for good, he underwent physical and occupational therapy, as well as treatment for drug addiction.
Part of Chandler’s perseverance was a re-dedication to his original goal; golf.
“I was thinking of golf the whole time,” he said. “When I got home, the first thing I saw were my clubs sitting in the corner of my room. All I wanted to do was play golf.”
A few days removed from his stint in the hospital, Terry took his son to the course to hit balls, literally wrapping him in his arms as he swung the club. It was a start, Chandler remembered.
“Look where it got me,” he said. “I’m now at Disney about to play in the pro-am of a PGA TOUR event with my favorite players like Boo Weekley and Davis Love III. This is just amazing. It’s so encouraging.”
Chandler earned a berth into this week’s Children’s Miracle Network Classic Pro-Am by virtue of his story being selected among hundreds of applicants from nearly 300 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals around the country. His distinction: The Network’s 2012 “Miracle Child.”
Today is Chandler’s 17th birthday. He continues to carry with him noticeable right-side weakness, akin to one who’s suffered a stroke. But with time, he believes, that too will pass. As for a birthday wish? ”Well, I’m alive and here with my parents and sister. What greater wish come true could one have” Chandler asked. “And I’m alive here at Disney World this week with the PGA TOUR. It’s just all just so surreal.”
On Thursday, when Chandler Fullman sticks that first tee in the ground, it will mark the two-year anniversary of his release from the hospital. Perseverance completes the trifecta of the story of this kid who does, in fact, belong out here.
When Parkin, the head of Orlando’s Wounded Warrior Project, learned of Chandler’s story Monday, he humbly asked to meet the birthday boy.
As he gingerly withdrew something from his right pocket, Parkin took hold of Chandler’s hand, embracing it - and the moment. Into Chandler’s hand with the Fullman family surrounding him, Parkin slipped Chandler a Challenge Coin, given by one who’s achieved military excellence to another of the same caliber, with or without the military experience. “Warrior to warrior,” Parkin said as Terry Fullman broke into tears. “You do belong out here,” Parkin whispered.
With that, Chandler drained a putt of about five feet in front of the gathered group. And what a putt it was.
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