The Story Behind My Eyepatch
Updated: Jan 14, 2020
While watching Fixer to Fabulous I'm sure viewers have wondered about my leather eyepatch. I'm just ruggedly handsome and feel like the patch adds to that look. I kid, I kid.
The story behind my eyepatch is much more than a bold fashion statement. Its necessary. I lost my eye in a tragic accident days after filming the pilot episode of the show. I now often joke about being a guy with one eye, and encourage others to joke with me. why? Because as unnatural as it sounds, I am thankful for the beautiful lesson and message God sent me in this tragic accident. It was planned for me to be the guy with one eye. This story isn't easy to share, this story isn't easy to hear, but this story is a testimony that when you are lost, when you are broken, when you don't see the gifts gods laid out in front of you, god in his loving beautiful way will show you. July 4th 2017 was the day god interviened and took my eye so that I could see.
Like most American families we had our perfect independence day planned out. Family, food on the grill, a pool that was open and inviting, and the grand finale was a fireworks display so large that bald eagles, the statue of liberty, and uncle sam himself would give a standing salute to.
I have the three greatest jobs in the world, a Father, a Firefighter, and a Carpenter. The week before this patriotic night I was stressed to my limit. Dave Marrs and i were wrapping up a very large renovation for the pilot of the show. I had two time pressing furniture projects to build and every third day i worked 24 hour shifts on the fire department. This stress reflected in my mood and at the time I was ignorant enough to bring that home to my nearly perfect wife and children. I was Lazy in my home life and neglecting my wife and kids.
I remember clearly the morning of the 4th my wife and I had an argument. She was trying to remind me that family came first and all stress from work had to be left at the door step. Our time together was precious and she was tired of spending it trying to get my head out of stress at work, constant emails, and phone calls to put out fires on the job site. We love each other fiercely but that day like feuding siblings we needed to be in our own corners. We agreed to revisit this argument at a better time and enjoy the holiday together as a family.
As the sun began to set we started to set up the fun for the night. My brother in law and I carefully set up the fireworks in the order we wanted them to create the best possible show. My brother in law didn't just share an affinity for exploding things on the 4th of July, He also worked on the fire department with me. We were friends as kids and i just so happen to fall for his beautiful and funny older sister. We were excited and just before it was time to start the show I remember looking back at the pool house and lawn overcome with excitement at all the faces of friends and family about to enjoy our massive celebration of freedom. The three most important faces of the 50+ people there were my son Landon, my baby girl Lucy, and my beautiful wife Chelsie (who not very happy with me that day still shows the love she has for me in her eyes.) Looking back I realize God was doing the same thing. Setting up something that was going to be just for me. Looking down excited for what he's about to show me. something he worked hard on and would change my life forever. Something that would celebrate my own personal freedom. I often imagine us both saying at the same time "lets start the show!"
Before the rain and storms hit we decided to light the large 3" mortars. (for those unaware this is a 3" ball of flaming American glory that blasts out of a small tube like cannon around 80 miles per hour roughly 210 feet in the air.) Ive played this over and over a million times in my head and the clearest memory i can gather in that fog was that after lighting the fourth mortar in a rush to beat the rain I quickly lite the fifth mortar. I believe the concussion from the fourth tube exploding tipped the fifth tube over after i had just lit it. Heres where God has placed me. He needs me here at this exact moment, in this exact position, making this mistake. Standing directly in front of that mortar that had just tipped over. He has started his show.
When the explosion went off i remember everything stopped. There was a deafening boom, a burst of light, and in the chaos of that moment everything around me slowed down. It was quiet. it was calm, and through the fog and smoke everything became clear. I could see everyone enjoying the show, i could see my brother in law carrying a torch to light the next mortar. I could see everything but i felt nothing. I fell to my knees and then slowly to my stomach. This is when the puzzle came together and i realized what had just happened. I reached up and touched my face. I could feel the trauma and pulling back my hand I saw it was covered in blood. I remember the feeling and fear of blood rushing down my face and into my airway slowly cutting off my ability to breath. See here's the funny thing about God. Through your life he gives you breadcrumbs. Small breadcrumbs that help you navigate the path he has laid out for you. You dont know the power of those breadcrumbs until the day he shows you why they were placed there in that moment. He holds your hand in this way. These breadcrumbs are tools that at the time you may not need or appreciate, the day will come where you are lying face down slowly choking on your own blood, people around you oblivious to what's going on, that you will reach down for that breadcrumb. All the years spent in the back of an ambulance working to help others, tired long nights seeing trauma, constantly applying what i know as a firefighter to help save others, those years that knowledge, that breadcrumb was about to save my life.
I remember telling myself "Chase you have extreme trauma to your face and airway. You need to roll over to keep the blood from choking you, and most important you need to keep calm and control your heart rate." The first person to get to me was my brother in law Jesse. He was a paramedic as i mentioned, and was well prepared with his own breadcrumbs. He yelled for someone to call 911 and for adults to take the children away. As he and i talked about what I knew was happening inside me and he assessed my injuries my wife came running up. This is when time stopped again. I will for the rest of our lives remember this moment. My wife got down on her stomach and laid next to me. ( remember this is the woman who although loved me more than anything had not wanted to say a word to me that entire day after our fight.) I remember my wife and i locking eyes and we were both overcome with emotion. I grabbed her hand and looked at her face as we both laid in the wet grass. Not once did our eyes look away. She kept telling me "its ok im here" and I kept trying to tell her how sorry I was. This moment is the closest I've ever felt with my wife. The chaos around us stood still and it was just her and I. This moment in my memory lasted forever. She was wrapped in an amber light and though at the time I didn't know it was the trauma showing that glow, I thought this was going to be the most beautiful thing I see before I leave this earth. No-one else existed it was just her and I wrapped in a glowing light.
We were both shocked out of this moment when the ambulance arrived. The medics were my family, they were my friends, we had worked countless hours together at the fire department. They loaded me as quickly as possible and told me they were going to put me to sleep so they could stick a tube down and clear my airway. This is the last memory I have of that night.
I arrived at the hospital in Bentonville. I was met by doctors and nurses I have worked with for years. We were friends and to them I was one of their own. As they prepped me in the trauma room word had gotten out to our rescue community and around midnight people began to show up. Bentonville is a special place like that. We love each other and we show up for each other. It was a holiday evening, it was a time to take a break and enjoy your family, and without hesitation some of Bentonville's finest started to fill the halls of Northwest Medical Center. My brothers from C shift were there, my family, the Mayor and other city officials from Bentonville were there, firefighters from neighboring departments, and of course Dave Marrs had gathered to show support and pray over me. Although i didn't get to see this outpour of love and community I will always be grateful for the support that night. It was decided i needed to be airlifted to Springfield MO. The storms made this impossible so my brother in law and other firefighting brothers volunteered to rush me by ambulance to Springfield MO. My wife and family were told by the doctors of the plan and told to be prepared that I may not make it to the hospital.
In Springfield I was rushed into surgery. My family and friends arrived and prayed through 8 hours of surgery. I won't share in detail what exactly needed to be done in attempts to save my eye and left side of my face, but I was placed in skilled hands. The Optical surgeon, Plastic surgeon, and entire medical team worked tirelessly to try to save my eye.
When I woke it was the following morning. I was wheeled bandaged into recovery where my wife grabbed my hand and told me she was there. The swelling and trauma was immense and it took a bit for me to be able to open my right eye and see my wife, my mother, and my father. That room was full of love. Full of what was important. That room was a breadcrumb. The following days were full of questions without answers. Full of unknowns. Full of what ifs. There was a lot to process but in it all i felt a peace that i had been given a second chance.
I was surrounded by friends and loved ones. There were three visitors aside from family that stuck out to me. The first was Matt Thompson. He was someone I worked every third day with. We were partners on the ambulance and experienced the absolute worst and best times. If we went into a burning building we knew if something went wrong we would come out of it together. We had full trust in each other. (except i dont know that he would trust me to be in charge of fire work displays anymore.) His first words when he saw me were "I hate you because you made me cry and I dont do that." and second "If you ever need anything I will be there for you." He visited and called me almost every day during my recovery.
The next visitors were Dave and Jenny Marrs. They came the following morning and brought my wife essentials so she wouldn't have to leave my side. They joked with me and told me that whatever happens I have nothing to worry about. I told them "I dont think I have the face for T.V. anymore." Through tears and laughter they reassured me I never had a face for T.V. anyway. Dave also let me know no matter what happens he would always take care of me and my family. He's never backed out on that promise.
The third visitors were the last to arrive but the most important. My wife and I knew that this situation should be handled delicately and we were venturing uncharted waters in our journey of parenthood. In this moment I was not dad. I was not strong, I looked different, and the hospital was full of scary unknowns. I needed my children but I didn't want to scare my children. I will never underestimate my kids strength and resilience again. They didn't need their dad to look the same, they didn't need their dad to stand up and throw them in the air, they didn't need their dad to take care of them. My children simply needed to see their father, to quietly sit near him, and to do what they did every evening. Watch cartoons. Thats a breadcrumb that would get me through the next year.
The following days in the hospital I was given the news that I lost my eye. That it would have to be removed. That i might not have movement in the left side of my face, and that the scarring would be permanent. I was depressed. I lost all my strength and will power. Then the morning i was scheduled to be released it occurred to me that days earlier God placed a breadcrumb. I was lying in the wet grass, looking at my wife and I was telling her goodbye. That amber lit breadcrumb helped me realize how lucky I am. That I have a second chance to take advantage of everyday given, and that i would no longer feel sorry for my loss but thankful for what i gained.
Ive had 2 years to heal. Ive retired from the Bentonville Fire Department to spend more time with my family. Ive made everyday count. Ive grown closer to God and found peace in trusting him and his journey he has planned for me. I got to join Dave and Jenny Marrs and prove that I do have a face for T.V. and appear in the new HGTV show Fixer to Fabulous.
I joined Matt Thompson who is now the fire chief in Centerton and I have circled back to the job I love, and the job that helped save my life. I most importantly am coming home everynight to a family and leaving whatever stress I have at the door step, because I've got cartoons to watch with my three favorite people. No stress in the world could get in the way of that.