July 23 marked two years since Chance McMinn's life was changed forever.
The Santa Rosa Beach resident had fallen from his 30A condo, the top floor of a four story building, during a night of drinking. He broke his lungs, pelvic bone, the L1 and L2 vertebrae, femur and broke through the third level of his brain. Doctors told his wife, Stephanie, that he had 72 hours to live.
"I was at a birthday party with the kids," Stephanie recalled. "It was the worst call of my life."
Born with Rh disease, the 41-year-old had already beat the odds well before his 2011 accident.
"He had to have five blood transfusions, doctors told his mom he didn't have a chance, but she said 'Oh yes he does,' and that's where his name came from," Stephanie explained.
Over the course of the past two years, with prayer and perseverance, Chance has again beat the odds, making incredible progress in his physical recovery.
"When I met Chance, he could not walk, he could not speak," said his nurse Maria Schabla. "Now, he walks by himself, speaks a lot more clearly and even started working. I'm normally working with people that aren't getting any better. His progress is mind-blowing."
Chance still has progress to make to achieve complete independence. He still struggles with walking and speaking full sentences clearly, not to mention his left arm is still atrophied and his medical benefits are waning. But his attitude has changed for the better.
"God healed my soul first and my body second," said Chance.
"I am second" is a popular phrase in the McMinn household. Chance sports a bracelet baring the motto, as well as a sticker on the back of his motorized wheelchair.
"Prior to this accident, Chance was living for Chance," Stephanie explained. "He's always been a good-hearted, generous guy, but he was a little wild and consumed of the world. Now he sees the importance of putting God first."
Part of Chance's recovery has also been giving up drinking and smoking.
"I don't even crave it," he said.
"I'm glad something good got knocked into you," Stephanie said with a laugh.
'The strongest women I ever met'
The saying goes that behind every great man is a great woman, and standing behind Chance is his wife, Stephanie.
Before the accident, Chance and Stephanie lived comfortably, but with Chance unable to work and mounting medical bills, Stephanie has had to make every dollar stretch to its very limit. She runs a cleaning business, as well as her faith-based charity, Be Generous, which she founded in 2009.
Seeing his wife go above and beyond to keep the family going is "awesome," Chance said.
"She's the strongest women I ever met. She's my motivation."
The community seems to agree. Inside the McMinn's Santa Rosa Beach home one Friday afternoon, WTVY Channel 4 is doing a profile on Stephanie for their "Hometown Heroes" segment. With kids laughing and running around the home, the reporter records Schabla talking about all the good Stephanie does.
"She's definitely a Hometown Hero," she said. "She's my hero."
With the help of Stephanie, Chance has begun to work again through founding Redeemed Properties, LLC, the name signifying his recent redemption. Through the business, Chance works with subcontractors to remodel houses. Although he's antsy to get out of the house again, he can at least find solace in returning to work.
When it comes to caring for her husband and five children, ages four to 19, Stephanie is just as surprised as outsiders that she manages every month. However, she doesn't look for handouts or sympathy.
"A lot of people see this as a tragedy — as a traumatic situation," she said. "But we look at is as a blessing. We changed for the better."
Bettering families is just what Stephanie sets out to do with Be Generous, by distributing donations and prayer, as well as long-term help such as job placement and training.
"It was originally just a diaper donation," Stephanie said. "Today, we try to reunify families by meeting tangible needs and spreading the love of Christ."
Chance's chance to give back
With a message from God, Chance is giving back by reaching out to people who are struggling in life, whether it be addiction or otherwise. He freely gives out his email, email@example.com, to anyone looking for a friend to talk to.
After another conversation with God, Chance was given the idea to take his message to the public. On Father's Day, he lugged an eight-foot wooden cross on wheels, built by friends, along Highway 98 in Destin. He took about five steps on his own without a cane. Friends and family were there to support Chance waving signs that read: "Honk if you love Jesus."
"It was Father's Day and I wanted to represent the real Father in heaven," Chance said.
By next year, Chance sees himself out of the wheelchair and out from behind the computer, on his feet again. Stephanie agrees saying "Next year, you'll be walking."
"I see myself totally healed," Chance said. "I'm believing for a complete miracle — voice and all."