Chance of a lifetime

Published 12:45 am Sunday, February 15, 2015

Chance Bishop stands at a tee box at Clear Creek Golf Course. Bishop lost his leg in a car accident in 2013, but has since resumed playing basketball and golf after being fitted for a prosthetic leg. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Chance Bishop stands at a tee box at Clear Creek Golf Course. Bishop lost his leg in a car accident in 2013, but has since resumed playing basketball and golf after being fitted for a prosthetic leg. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Vicksburg resident bounces back after losing leg

On this crisp February day, as the sun blasted down on a manicured Warren County golf course and a soft breeze blew, Bailey “Chance” Bishop stepped up to the first tee.

It didn’t matter how much his drive hooked that day, or how many putts he sank under a sky as powder blue as the old helmets of his favorite Ole Miss Rebel team. That first step onto the course was the play of the day, because Bishop almost didn’t have a chance to step anywhere ever again.

The 14-year-old Vicksburg native was hospitalized for more than a month after a gruesome car crash in October 2013 that killed his brother Brice and injured six others.

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Bishop spent the next three months confined to a hospital bed and a scooter with a badly injured leg that showed no signs of getting better. After three months, doctors decided they would have to amputate his right leg.

One month after losing his leg, Chance Bishop tried on his first prosthesis.

“I thought I was just going to get up and start walking just fine, but once I put all my weight on and I was ready, I didn’t know what to do next,” he said. “They told me at the doctor’s office I was acting like I was scared to put my left foot down.”

Understandably, Bishop was a little uncomfortable at first with his new bionic attachment. As with most things in life, the longer he used it the more comfortable it became.

“It was sort of scary at first. I didn’t know what to do,” he said. “I was scared it was going to hurt. It hurt really bad, and then I started going to Good Samaritan physical therapy, and the pain slowly started going away.”

So much so, that six months after he was fitted for his first prosthesis, Bishop was back on the golf course playing his beloved sport. His mother, Jillean, understood the gravitas of that momentous occasion and couldn’t contain herself.

Bailey Bishop got the nickname “Chance” because, as the youngest sibling, he was his mother’s last chance at having a girl. But these days, the nickname means more.

“I was in a meeting and I just started weeping,” she said. “A year ago, we didn’t know what was going to happen. Several months before that, we didn’t know if he was going to come home. Every day, now, it’s a gift. It really is.”

The accident has completely altered the family’s day-to-day life. Instead of dwelling on the future, Jillean and her son began to cherish the present. And because of that, Chance has also been able to cherish some presents.

“We’ve probably changed a lot of the way we’ve done things. Growing up, I’ve always been a stickler for the rules, especially with the kids. They had begged and begged and begged me for a go-kart, and I always told them you can’t have a go-kart in the city. For Christmas, Chance got a go-kart. If you get a ticket, fine, but you’re having a go-kart, because I lost those chances with Brice and could have very well lost them with him.”

It’s also how she got Chance to return to his old love — basketball.

The YMCA invited Bishop to come back to play the last season he missed due to his injury, and his mom was just a tad bit more excited than him about the news.

“I got all excited and was like, they’re going to let you come back and play basketball! He was like, I’m not playing basketball,” Jillean said. “(He said) mom, I’m not getting out there where everybody can see me. They’re going to be looking at my leg; I’m going to be embarrassed. They’re going to be waiting for me to mess up. I was like, you know those Jordans you wanted? We’ll buy them right now if you sign up.”

A trip to the shoe store and $200 later, Chance was back on the court with his prosthetic leg.

He’s had some scary mishaps while playing — another player once accidentally knocked his leg sideways and another time he jumped completely out of his prosthesis before falling right back into it perfectly — but other than that, he was as good as he’s ever been.

“I don’t even think about it any more. It just feels like another leg to me now. The only problem is I can’t flex it,” he said with a laugh.

He’s also served as an inspiration to those around Vicksburg with similar injuries.

“When he first got (the prosthesis) I remember him telling me he wasn’t going to wear shorts. He said, I’m not wearing shorts, but it was hot and it was summer so he started wearing shorts,” Jillean said.

“We went to Taco Bell a couple of weeks ago and one of the girls came up to us and asked if we were the Bishops and we said yes. She said, ‘Well, I have a 6-year-old nephew that broke his leg playing baseball so badly that they had to amputate it, and he would never wear shorts.’ He’d seen Chance around town wear shorts, and now he wears shorts.”

It was in that moment, when the world seemed to nudge Chance toward the idea that he can inspire just by living, that he truly realized his purpose.

“I’ve thought about it, but I feel like I don’t really have to say anything because I feel like I’ve already inspired people enough,” he said. “I feel like as long as I keep going on, I’ll inspire more people as I go. Instead of me talking to them, they’ll see me out there playing.”

Chance finished his YMCA basketball career earlier in the year and is now focused intently on playing golf and earning a high school letter at Warren Central like his brothers and father.

“I’m so proud of him. I don’t even know if he comprehends how awesome that is, because that’s the way his life is right now,” Jillean said. “To me, having two boys ahead of him, everything now is so much more different — so much more special.”

His father’s drive to make him live a fulfilling life coupled with his mother’s nurturing spirit has allowed Chance to continue to impress on the golf course and basketball court.

Now when he steps up to the tee box, he soaks in the atmosphere around him with an appreciation most could never understand.

“The wind’s blowing and everything. I just take a deep breath on the drive and I just look and say, I’m doing this,” he said. “It feels good.”