Chance was a booger with often matted curly hair, shiny apple cheeks, and a smile that would melt your heart. He obnoxiously threw his head back and howled. He loved to watch Finding Nemo and Mickey Mouse Playhouse. Sometimes he even loved his twin sister. He never walked. Instead, he scooted across the floor on his barely-there little butt-cheeks. He could say, “uh oh”, “uh-huh” (with emphatic and dramatic head nods), and he even said “Mama”. He loved to shut any and all doors and throw things. Anything. He had the best snuggles in the world. He was sweet and adorable and grouchy and a little turd.
Chance James and Taylor Grace Rademaker were born on March 4, 2009. Taylor, in picture-perfect health, 6 lbs 2 oz and Chance with HLHS (Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome) at 4 lbs 5 oz.
HLHS is a congenital heart defect for which there is no cure, though can be treated with a series of three heart surgeries. The first surgery is typically within days of birth. Chance, little stinker, was a rebel who refused to follow rules. Being a twin and several weeks premature, he was too small to risk surgery. He didn’t have his first surgery until after his first month. The second surgery is usually at six to nine months of age. Chance was suffering from a leaky tricuspid valve, therefore the doctors decided to operate at five months. He finally got to join his twin sister and big brother at home when he was eight months old.
Chance continued his heart journey, battling every step of the way. He enjoyed an awesome few months, thriving, dare I say; as a result of a mechanical tricuspid valve replacement. That worked wonders for a while! There were moments we never thought he would be with us for his first birthday, but after that valve replacement, well…life almost felt “normal.”
Within his life, Chance endured multiple surgeries and procedures. He was never quite the same after his last heart surgery, the Fontan. Jesus called him home on December 17, 2011. Aside from miraculously healing him, our prayer was always that when the fight became too much, God would take Chance home.
The Heart of Chance Toy Chest
If you read Chance’s story, you’ve gathered that we spent a significant amount of time at the hospital. Every now and then different people would drop in with gifts for Chance or even for us. Maybe a stuffed animal, a blankie, a toy, or even a snack or gift for one of us. We didn’t know these individuals. They didn’t know us. In our times of weariness and exhaustion, on days we had no hope, the actions of strangers brought a little bit of joy and sunshine to our days. That was nice.
Chance’s last hospital stay began on December 1, 2011. He went to Heaven on December 17, 2011. Those 17 days were a roller coaster. We went from thinking he was going to home to oh, he’s not doing well at all to wait he’s doing better and we may be home by Saturday to we may want to consider calling in Hospice. We’d already bought him several Christmas gifts with hope that he would be home. He did go Home, though not to our Earthly home.
We opted for a nontraditional celebration of life rather than a typical funeral service. We had these few toys we’d bought him already, so thought, why not have friends and family bring toys and gifts to the memorial service, in lieu of flowers? We ended up with a car load of toys that we took to Norton Children’s Hospital (formerly Kosair), in honor of Chance’s life.
It was therapeutic for us. We found that we could return that bit of joy that strangers brought to us during Chance’s journey. We decided to do it again. And again. And again.
Thus, the Heart of Chance Toy Chest project was born. It is very simple! We organized toy drives, collected, and delivered to the hospital. As our donations grew, we added a deliveries to Home of the Innocents, and the outpatient Norton Children’s Hospital location..
Mid-2017 God led us to make it official. The Heart of Chance Toy Chest, Inc. is now registered as a nonprofit corporation in the state of Kentucky and is 501c3 approved by the IRS. Our mission is to honor God’s command to love one another by bringing joy children as they journey through their medical battles.
If it is in your heart to help us with this mission, please reach out to us. There are endless ways you can help; prayer, share, coordinate toy drives, donations, tag toys, etc. Little by little, a little becomes a lot.