Coach Chapman's Blog

Eleven years ago today, my five-year-old niece Maria died. Many of you will recall the tragic driveway accident at the Steven Curtis Chapman residence involving my nephew, Will. It is a day none of us in the Chapman family will ever forget. I remember exactly where I was the moment I got the horrifying phone call from my sister. She was hysterical and the only thing we really understood was that my wife and I and our family needed to get to Vanderbilt immediately. It was about 5:00 in the evening. When we arrived, the hospital staff escorted us to family holding room separate from the general waiting room. That is when we knew it was bad, really bad. As more family and the closest of friends gathered, we knew the forthcoming news was what we all feared, Maria had passed away. The international outpouring of thoughts and prayers, well wishes, and yes, monetary gifts from celebrities, dignitaries, normal people, and fans; was, in a word, phenomenal.

I start with that because here we are, eleven years later. Seems like last week. A bad dream. Through that horrible tragedy, a legacy was born. An organization which was in its infancy, The Show Hope Foundation, bloomed. In Luoyang, China, a big sky-blue building with clouds painted on it (purely by an accidental mis-communication/translation) grew out of the ground and opened its doors to eight little, very sick babies a little over ten years ago. Our little baby, Fahlin, was one of those eight. And yes, irony of ironies…the very hospital where Maria was pronounced DOA, was the very same Vanderbilt that gave Fahlin life.  

What a story. Tragic on the front end, hopeful on the back. Where would Fahlin be if there was no Maria’s Big House? All eight of the first eight are with their forever families, but where would those kids be if not for the big sky-blue building? It is bind-bogglingly discombobulating to try to figure out all of the weaving in and out of all the pieces that have fallen together, not by chance, but by divine, sovereign design. What Satan meant as destruction, God has turned into hope. This side of Heaven we will never, ever even come close to understanding the ‘whys?’ of why this happened, or understand how it all ties together, but rest assured, when we do finally arrive in Heaven, I am sure we will go, “Oh, THAT is why? Now, I get it!”

As God prompts and brings them to your minds and hearts, pray for the Chapmans please. For Steven, Mary Beth, Emily, Caleb, Shaoey and Stevey, and especially Will.

Read More about May 21, 2019

It’s time for a new blog post. Fahlin has begun swimming lessons. Now, to be clear, in the Chapman Family, if you are not swimming by age 4, you are basically waaaaaaaay behind. It’s part of life in our family. When you spend your life around water all the time, it is imperative to know how to swim. Period.

Fahlin has been the exception. If you have spent any time reading any of these blogs, you know that physically, she simply could not exert the necessary energy to swim. Her heart wouldn’t allow it. Her body could not do it. She was physically unable to perform. That was then…

…This is now. Fast forward from 2015 to 2019. We began lessons with Coach Amy. Amy Caulkins. Amy is probably the most knowledgeable swim instructor in the world. We go back a long-ways. At one point, she was the American record holder in 100 freestyle, that is until her more famous sister, Tracy Caulkins broke that record only a mere hour after Amy had set it. She swam in the Olympics and was on the inaugural American Women’s Olympic water polo team. AND, she is quite a character! Loud and boisterous, yet loves the sport of swimming and the kids she teaches and coaches.

She loves Fahlin. Lovers her story. Has a compassionate heart for how far she has come and what all she has been through. She gets it. She understand the trepidation on Fahlin’s part. Amy has seen it all, dealt with it all and overcome it all.

So, she is now Fahlin’s swim instructor. Now, mind you, learning to swim at age 10 is much more difficult than learning at a younger age. We are now two lessons in and of course, Fahlin is progressing slowly. I think she can do more, but that’s just because I know how Fahlin can be. It will just take Amy a little time before she figures out Fahlin’s nuances. But for now, the lessons are what they are. Amy is great. Fahlin will learn…

THEN it’s on to summer swim team! Every time we mention it, Fahlin simply rolls her eyes and says, “Ugggh!” Hahaha!

Read More about April 10, 2019

Happy birthday Fahlin! Yes, it is Fahlin’s birthday. She turns 10! The big 1 – 0. It is hard to believe that 10 years ago today, this little girl was born with a heart that would be later diagnosed to be very, very sick. She arrived at Maria’s Big House when she was about 4 months old and was immediately diagnosed with a congenital heart problem. She would have what is called: Complex cyanotic congenital heart defect with truncus arteriosus, pulmonary valve atresia with collateral vessel formation. In other words, Fahlin would not live very long, let alone 10 years. She was immediately placed on the palliative care floor, where she was loved by a very caring staff as they waited for the inevitable to happen.

Yet, she lived to see one. Then two. Then three. She was still purplish-blue. Always had been, still was at that time. Then she turned four, then five.

Then a family in Nashville Tennessee decided she would be theirs. It was a rather large family, full of crazy people. A bald-headed Dad, a Mom who had been praying for this little girl without even knowing her name, four fully grown brothers and sisters and three other sisters also from China. She had no idea what was about to happen, but she longed for a family, and we were it. Haha. Surprise!

Well, here we are, four years and untold numbers of heart echo-cardiograms, a ton of heart catheterizations, and three major open-heart surgeries later and we are now celebrating a little girl’s 10th birthday who once had no hope at any kind of life. Wow! If anyone tells you there is no God or no such thing as a miracle, you tell them you know a family who can show them otherwise. We live with little miracle every day. We see how far she has come. We know who we should thank, and we do every day.

She had her most recent follow-up check-up last week. I will end with this quote from Dr. Janssen (with a smile on his face), “Fahlin, your heart sounds BORING!”

Read More about April 1, 2019

Who is this child?

I am referring to Fahlin, of course. The past month has been quite interesting. Fahlin has changed. Since the surgery over four months ago, we have been watching to see if we would notice any difference with the new heart re-construction. Boy, in the last month, her energy level has just exploded. Either that or we just all of a sudden noticed the difference. She is happy, energetic, helpful, runs up and down the stairs, runs around the house; she’s even doing P.E. in school.

She was acting particularly crazy the other day when I looked at my wife and asked. “Has she all of a sudden gotten new energy?” Our thought is that her body has been adjusting, adjusting, adjusting, trying to figure out how it is going to handle all new oxygen. We think it has finally figured out what to do with it all and it is showing as energy.

We could not have prayed for a better outcome. To borrow a well-used cliché, she literally has a new lease on life. And it shows in everything. Her brain is even exploding. The vocabulary is expanding at an alarming rate (in a good way). She doesn’t get pooped like she used to. She is even going up and down stairs without holding onto anything. She has always been uncertain. Her strength has improved as evidenced by the fact that she can carry heavier things in from the car from the grocery. She has grown two inches since the surgery. Everything is great.

God is good all the time, all the time, God is good.

Read More about March 5, 2019