CLARENCE, NY- He's a 5 year old who's smile and spirit has captured hearts around the world. To many, Chase Britton is a miracle child, an inspiration, a hero. But now he needs a hero of his own.
"How we've had to be challenged yet again, it's unthinkable," said Chase's father, David Britton.
You've probably heard Chase's story. His is the only known case in the world of a baby being born without a cerebellum. That's the part of the brain that plays a major role in motor control, balance, coordination, emotional control, language and learning. Chase is also missing his pons. That part regulates basic functions, like sleeping and breathing.
But Chase is defying the odds. He started kindergarten in the fall, where he's thriving. He's learning how to do things a person without a cerebellum just shouldn't be able to do including walking, counting, and his vocabulary has now topped 200 words. And video games on his tablet computer? Just like any kid, he can outplay his parents. But all of those developments have hit a sudden roadblock.
"An inexperienced driver, not doing anything wrong, just inexperienced, turned left in the intersection that we were going straight through, so we had a head on collision and my van was totaled," said Heather Britton, Chase's mother.
Mom had bruised ribs, and older brother Alex was pretty shaken up, but quickly attention turned to Chase.
"I turned around his wheelchair strap was undone and his head was between his legs," said Heather.
There were no apparent signs of injury after a hospital checkup, but now they're starting to question if that's really true.
"He has had a couple of seizures since. He was seizure-free for four months," said Heather.
And there have been other setbacks without that van. It was their lifeline. It got him to and from school and his various therapy appointments, and easily transported his 300 pound motorized wheelchair and his standing apparatus. But after settling with insurance, the Brittons are paying twice as much for the new van as they did for the old one. Even worse, insurance won't cover the almost $20,000 conversion to make the van wheelchair accessible.
"It did change things an awful lot. In just a couple seconds of time it really affected things," said Heather.
Without the conversion, there's only room for his small basic wheelchair and now they have to carry Chase to his car seat, rather than just roll him into the van in his chair.
"Chase is 50 lbs and it's getting impossible for me to carry him around without feeling like I'm going to drop him," Heather said.
Chase will have to wait two and a half long years for Medicaid to fund another wheelchair modification for the family van, and that's why the hope is the community will step in first.
"All we want to do is get back to where we were before the accident," said Heather.
That's living a comfortable life. And it's not easy with Chase's immense needs including an $8000 bed, $5000 wheelchair and $400 per month for special food alone.
"I'm gainfully employed, and thank God for that, but at the same time we have bills that no one else has. And we've just got to get those finances under control and we don't get in over our head," Dave said.
Despite all the challenges they have faced, the Brittons consider themselves to be fortunate.
"Realistically every single day that we wake up and he's fine, is a gift," said Dave. "In this time of Thanksgiving and things, the good news is I have my entire family."
If you would like to help make Chase's van become wheelchair accessible, please make a donation to "The Chase Britton Fund" at any First Niagara Bank branch location. The family has also set up an online account. You can find it here. You can also e-mail Melissa Holmes at Channel 2 News at Melissa.Holmes@wgrz.com or call 716-849-2216.