The scene in a Memphis parking lot the morning of June 15 was a colorful blend of organization and joy.
In one area, dozens of children in dark blue T-shirts were rounded up and given instructions. About a hundred feet away, doctors in their medical whites lined up for a photo. Other people wearing yellow, red and light blue shirts and regular clothing formed more groups in the parking lot while parade floats, a drum corps and mounted policemen were stationed on nearby streets.
Sitting in the middle of this madness was Chance Futrell. From his vantage point on a yellow parking curb, the 12-year-old from Mooreville watched the activity while trying to stay cool in the torrid heat.
When he was asked about the hoopla surrounding him, a modest Futrell shrugged his shoulders.
“All I know is, I’m going to ride in a horse carriage,” he replied.
An hour later, Futrell was sitting in a white carriage with two other kids about his age for a special ride. With the various colors lining up behind their carriage, the three riders rode past hundreds of spectators to the new Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.
Futrell was one of three past Le Bonheur patients chosen as grand marshals for a parade celebrating the hospital’s expansion. A 255-bed, $340-million facility was built next to the existing hospital to treat more than 130,000 sick and injured children from a 250-mile radius each year.
“Le Bonheur means the world to us,” said his mother, Larissa Grissom.
A close call
Futrell suffered an accidental gunshot wound to his left leg on Nov. 29, 2009. He was rushed from North Mississippi Medical Center to Le Bonheur. Doctors discovered Futrell’s femoral artery was severely damaged, and he was on the operating table within minutes after arriving in Memphis.
“They didn’t really expect him to live after surgery,” Grissom said before the start of the parade. “The doctors said he would be amazed if Chance lived for 12 hours after the first surgery due to the blood loss.”
Futrell underwent 13 surgeries to save his leg and his life. He spent five weeks at Le Bonheur and another five weeks in physical rehabilitation. Today, he walks with the aid of crutches; his left leg is 3 centimeters shorter than the right.
However, Futrell did return to school to complete the sixth grade at Mooreville Middle School. He has rejoined his summer league baseball team, the Chesterville Cougars, but his injury prevents him from playing at the present time.
Futrell’s story was among those nominated for the grand marshal spots in the parade, which took place on the 58th anniversary of Le Bonheur’s opening. Eleven nominees were selected and then voted on by Facebook members. Futrell was chosen along with Olivia Jones, 12, of Bolivar, Tenn., and Reese Wagner, 11, of Bartlett, Tenn.
The stay at Le Bonheur made an impression on Futrell as he began his recovery.
“I don’t remember much being in the ICU, but when I got in a room it was fun. People came to see me, like the Grizzlies,” he said, referring to members of Memphis’ NBA team.
Riding in style
When Futrell climbed into the carriage, he bonded quickly with Reese. Both share a passion for baseball.
“We talked about a lot of things,” he said. “We talked about how we became grand marshals.”
Trailing the grand marshals were doctors, volunteers, contributors, past patients and individuals who supported the hospital’s fund-raising and growth. More than $103 million of the construction cost was donated by people in Memphis and the Mid-South.
The parade route led to a ceremony in front of the new Le Bonheur. After several speeches by dignitaries, the new facility was opened for tours. The hospital will officially welcome patients in late September.
Even though Futrell was unsure about the parade beforehand, he felt better about it afterwards.
“It was very fun, exciting,” he said.
Grissom watched the parade with other family members and friends. She said it was an emotional moment for her to see her son in the carriage when the grand marshals were introduced to the crowd.
“It’s a good feeling, but I still get teary-eyed,” she said. “It was amazing. I know what a miracle he is. I think now he realizes what a big deal this was after looking at all the people.”
Contact Bobby Pepper at (662) 678-1592 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bobby Pepper/Lee County Neighbors