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Jen Pilgreen, Deseret News
Chase Makin, 9, who fell from the top of a slide and was temporarily paralyzed in January of this year, works on physical therapy in Orem, Monday, March 26, 2012.
So, so many miracles have been born from what could have been a tragedy. —Jen Makin

OREM — Chase Makin is laughing while in a swing during physical therapy. It’s music to his parents’ ears, as they have watched him recover from a traumatic brain injury.

On Jan. 15, the 9-year-old fell 12 to 15 feet from the top of a slide at Nielson’s Grove Park in Orem, near his home. He hit his head in the fall and was flown to Primary Children’s Medical Center with a brain injury and a broken jaw.

Two weeks after the accident he could barely move his limbs and couldn’t speak. Doctors didn’t know if he would ever walk again, or return to school.

Now they know.

“We went from week-to-week to day-to-day progress,” Jen Makin said. “To the point where they (the doctors) were going, ‘I set a goal for him Tuesday, and it’s Wednesday and he’s already met his goal.’”

There have been plenty of days Makin has wondered about her son's future. She spent almost every night at the hospital with him, faithfully recording the experience on her blog chasemakin.blogspot.com. It gave her strength and in return, family members, friends and even strangers boosted her spirits.

“I want to write everyone ‘thank you’ notes, because I could not have done this on my own," she said, "and I didn’t realize how loved we were and now I know.”

But Jen gives the credit for holding their lives together to Chase’s father, Justin, who knew his son would recover.

“My husband always knew,” Jen said. “He was my source of strength. He held the fort down at home with our three girls. He did what I couldn’t do. I could barely get out of my pajamas. I gave everything to Chase. We decided it was the best thing for our family.”

On March 15, the day before Chase came home, Jen wrote: “I can't believe that tomorrow night I will be back in my bed … In my kitchen … With ALL MY BABIES AND MY HUBBY. On January 15th, I was unsure if this moment would come … And here we are. Someone pinch me I must be dreaming.”

Chase came home without a wheelchair and without any medications.

“I will never forget this time in my life,” Jen wrote. “So, so many miracles have been born from what could have been a tragedy.”

Chase doesn’t remember anything that happened a week before the accident. “I would not want to remember,” he said.  

But he does remember his first words afterwards. “First, I said my mom’s name,” he said.

"I was nervous, I'm not going to lie,” Jen said. "Will I ever hear my son's voice? His first word was 'mom,' which was exciting for me because his first initial word when he was a baby was ‘dad,’ so he kind of has two first words," she said with a laugh.

He doesn't find anything hard to do now. “I can run,” he said. “I can walk. I can eat.”

He returns to school Tuesday. He will slowly reintegrate back into school and continue his therapy from home. He recently found out that with the work he has done at home and plans to do over the summer, he won't have to repeat third grade.

Chase recently visited his school to see his classmates and remembered their names and where he sat in class, Jen said, with a smile on her face. 

While Makin credits her son's efforts, she also believes other factors were at play in his recovery. “His hard work as well as I think, you know, God," she said.

Chase also knows many people prayed for his recovery and still do. His expression of gratitude, while brief, comes with joy. “Thank you. That’s it,” he said with a laugh.

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc

E-mail: cmikita@desnews.com