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Dickinson State football to add honorary player

When Parker Case-Roy was four years old, he was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, an extremely rare neurological disease that only three other people currently living in North Dakota have.

Fourteen-year-old Parker Case-Roy, who suffers from transverse myelitis, will become an honorary member of Dickinson State's football team on Oct. 13. (Samuel Evers / The Dickinson Press)
Fourteen-year-old Parker Case-Roy, who suffers from transverse myelitis, will become an honorary member of Dickinson State's football team on Oct. 13. (Samuel Evers / The Dickinson Press)

When Parker Case-Roy was four years old, he was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, an extremely rare neurological disease that only three other people currently living in North Dakota have.

Paralyzed from the waist down and bedridden for most of that year, doctors told him and his family that the chance of him walking again was close to nothing.

But Parker didn't have much else to do with his free time, so he got to fighting. A few months after the cloudy diagnosis, he announced he was going to stand up. The doctors said it wasn't a great idea to try. He stood up anyway.

A few months later, he was making his way up and down the hospital hallways in a walker. A few years later, he decided he was tired of the walker. He ditched it and started walking by himself.

His life has been defined by beating the odds.

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Next on the to-do-list? Becoming a football player. On Thursday, Oct. 13, he'll be signing his letter of intent to join the Dickinson State Blue Hawks.

Now 14, the eighth grader at Hagen Junior High in Dickinson dreams of aerodynamics and flying planes - he wants to be a pilot. His life still isn't "normal," his mother Laura Roy said - his disease has left him with restrictive lung disease, mild autism and a neurogenic bowel and bladder. He has had 13 surgeries and counting; he has spent an accumulation of years in various hospitals; he takes 15 pills a day, none of which he can pronounce; and every night, he has to wear a compression vest which shakes the secretion in his lungs so he can cough them out.

All this, and Parker, an ever-smiling teenager, meets his life with inspiring and translucent joy.

"He honestly goes through life with such grace, and he reminds me that I need to do that. He knows tomorrow is a new day. I could take lessons from my child," Roy said. "He doesn't sit around and sulk. He doesn't think, 'Why did this happen to me? This is unfair.' He's just a happy kid. He's just a strong kid."

Because Parker is limited physically, team sports were "never in the cards," Roy said. He tried baseball and football when he was younger, but the stress on his body was too much.

So, through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation - an organization devoted to improving "the quality of life for children battling pediatric brain tumors and other childhood cancers," according to its mission statement - the Blue Hawks will be "adopting" Parker onto their team in an honorary press conference and ceremony at the Biesiot Activities Center.

"We've been trying to find a time that we can meet up with Parker since we found out about him," said Dickinson State football coach Pete Stanton. "We'd love to have him a part of our team. We're excited to meet Parker and his family and have him be a part of our football family."

The idea originated last year but fell through because Parker was recovering from bladder surgery. Then it got pushed back to the beginning of this year because of another surgery - this one a bit more standard: he fell off his electric scooter and broke his left arm.

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"His uncle played football for the (University of Montana) Grizzlies, he would always take him out on the field," Roy said. "He always wanted to play football, it just never worked out. This is a cool alternative for him to be a part of a football team."

A video game aficionado, Parker plays Madden on his Nintendo DS and started following the Pittsburgh Steelers when he was younger because he "liked the colors." On Sundays, he roots for Ben Roethlisberger while his father, a Denver Broncos fan, joshes parker for picking the wrong team.

So, once he signs his letter of intent, what will be his favorite part?

"I have definitely not thought that far yet," said Parker, laughing. "I'm pretty excited. My favorite sport is football."

While football is of interest, Parker has all sorts of other hobbies. He plays lots of video games - something he picked up during his many stints in the hospital - and likes to swim - he can be in a pool for as long as he wants without having to worry about "overheating."

When his friends come over, he flies his drone. When other kids in the neighborhood got electric scooters, Parker asked his mom to buy him one.

"He doesn't really let the limitations hold him back. And that's why he broke his arm," said Roy, laughing. "We let him ride a bike. We let him ride a scooter. We don't tell him no. Why should we? If he wants to do it, it's not on us to say no.

"That kid has more scars on his leg than I've seen in my life. He's broken so many bones from falling because of his balance and coordination issues, but more power to him. If he wants to try, he can try."

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When he was younger, he would travel to different elementary schools and speak to kids about his disease. He's open about his medical history, but he would rather talk to friends about what he learned in science class, or what video game he has been playing a lot of recently.

What sticks out about the Blue Hawks latest signee is not that he has almost as many surgeries as years he's been alive; what sticks out is the infectious laugh and positive attitude.

If there were someone in his position who greeted life with less enthusiasm, Parker would tell him only one thing.

I would say, "Just get some video games, man," he said. "That simple."

Related Topics: BLUE HAWKS
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