Chance Byrd, 17, has always loved performing. He wasn't putting on a show in April, though, when he said he felt like a sledgehammer had hit him in the chest. He was having a massive heart attack.
Byrd's mother, Regina, thought her son might just have bronchitis, because he had been sick with sinus issues a week earlier. After all, Chance was an active 16-year-old high school junior at the time — not a typical heart attack sufferer. He convinced his mother it was something more serious, though, and she rushed him to the hospital in DeFuniak Springs. Doctors realized the DeFuniak resident had endured a major heart attack and sent him to the heart specialists at Pensacola Sacred Heart.
"I didn't know what to think. I guess we were kind of in shock," Regina told The Log. "The doctors said, 'We don't have answers. We don't know why this happened.' "
On the severity spectrum, Byrd's heart attack was off the charts. One of the most reliable tests of a heart attack is measuring the level of certain enzymes in the blood that the heart releases when it is injured. Doctors told Byrd that his enzyme levels were more than five times the level that indicates a minor heart attack.
Doctors ran several tests and scans on Byrd, and found a large foreign mass near his heart. They told Byrd, who dreamed of one day making his living as a singer, that it could be cancerous, but they wouldn't know until they ran more tests.
That night, Byrd's outlook on life and performing changed.
"For 11 years, I worked and worked and worked, trying to get to where I was. I gave up on things that really mattered," Byrd told The Log. "I feel like God was saying, 'You need to live your life, slow down a little bit. There will be time for that in the future.' "
The next day, doctors scanned Byrd's chest again. They found no sign of the mass they had seen just 24 hours earlier.
"(The doctors) were like, 'What in the world is going on with your body? This is weird,' " Byrd said. "I said, 'No, it's God. It's all God. He is working.' "
With a monitor recording every heart beat, Byrd went back to school with a reorganized priority list for life. Then, in May, Byrd got a major opportunity. His friend Brittany Wilharm, the daughter of writer/director Sharon Wilharm, offered Byrd a chance to star in her mother's latest feature film, "The Good Book." Byrd, who has performed in musical theater productions since grade school, quickly said yes.
Byrd, along with the rest of the cast and crew, filmed two scenes of "The Good Book" Aug. 2 and 3 in Destin. The film is an ambitious effort. A story of seven strangers and a single copy of the Bible that affects all of their lives, "The Good Book" will be a silent film and contain no dialogue whatsoever. Byrd plays one of the seven strangers.
"It was nothing like I thought it would be. We did several, several retakes of the scenes," Byrd said. "It was a great experience, though. There were a lot of people there. I met a lot of good people."
Since getting the role in "The Good Book," Byrd has received more acting offers through his talent agency, Rare Quality Models and Talent in Dothan, Ala. Byrd said he can't talk about any of the projects explicitly yet.
Not only has the movie helped Byrd find more work, but it's also made him a bit of a local celebrity. Recently, he was at a local gas station and someone approached him and asked for his autograph.
Byrd, a senior at Walton High School, said his ultimate dream is to be a contemporary Christian singer. Acting has always come second to singing to Byrd, but he said "The Good Book" has shown him that God may have different plans.
"This movie happened. It started bringing the passion and the fire that I had for (acting) back," Byrd said. "This is definitely something that I want to be doing for the rest of my life."