Chase, now 17 and completing his senior year in high school, is the epitome of a high school student athlete. He is a 4 year varsity swimmer and wrestler at Key West High School (KWHS) and was a Florida Regional qualifier in both sports this school year. This spring he broke the KWHS National Junior ROTC record for most cadenced push-ups, a record his instructor, Senior Chief Morgante, does not see anyone beating anytime soon. He was also recently accepted into his dream school, the University of Florida, on a full NROTC scholarship.
Despite his many accomplishments, Chase developed a medical condition as a pre-teen called pectus excavatum (also known as sunken chest) that was leaving him winded, especially when swimming and running long distances.
His mother, Marjorie Rodriguez, noticed that it was affecting his ability to play his beloved sports. “He wasn’t able to run as fast or as long as he probably should have. It was also beginning to affect his appearance and how he felt about himself physically.”
Pectus excavatum causes the bones in the rib cage to move inward, giving the chest a caved-in appearance. The family traveled to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital for a consultation with Dr. Cathy Burnweit, Chief of Pediatric Surgery and head of the Chest Wall Deformity Center of Excellence at Nicklaus Children’s, who confirmed that the condition was hindering his ability to breathe when working out at the highest level.
In January of his junior year, Chase underwent a procedure that repairs the sunken chest and includes placing a bar in the chest cavity that holds the healing bones in place so that they may heal in the correct position. Chase was feeling well and back in school in less than three weeks. The bar was left in place for six months until his bone fused together. Within two weeks after a second surgery to remove the bar, Chase was back at swim practice in the pool.
“It was the best thing we could have done for our son,” said Mrs. Rodriguez. Once he had the operation, Chase was feeling stronger and more fit and is now able to jog longer distances and keep up with his peers. “The result of this procedure was everything we would have hoped and more, and the care that our teenager received by Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and Dr. Cathy Burnweit was unsurpassable” she said.
In fact, Chase was awarded the Most Improved trophy for swimming this year and passed the NROTC physical training test with flying colors!