Chase Thompson is more than his diagnosis. He’s a fisherman.
And the state Department of Marine Resources has decided to acknowledge that in an official way Thursday by issuing Chase a special fishing license, though people with disabilities don’t need one.
Chase, 21, has been diagnosed with a genetic disease so rare he’s the only one with the diagnosis. He has had physical problems flare up in recent years, and his parents have worked to find a boat that would suit him so he can fish as much as he can.
To go with that boat, his parents wanted him to have something with his name on it that says he’s officially licensed to fish. The DMR’s Lt. Jack Ewing and Marine Patrol officer Baron O’Grady responded.
They’re planning a ceremony at the docks Thursday to give him an honorary captain’s license and a certificate that says Capt. Chase Thompson is an honorary member of the Marine Patrol.
“They’re not only going to give him a license, they’re going to put something on paper for him,” his father, Michael Thompson, told the Sun Herald. “They went out of their way to do something for him, something that will make him incredibly happy, and blesses him.”
His parents searched for years for a boat to suit him and two months ago, his uncle, John Rodolfich, a boat captain and Biloxi firefighter, found a 44-foot catamaran that will accommodate his disabilities and needs.
The boat is docked at the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor. The Thompsons are from Biloxi and have extended family here, but had moved away. They have since returned, bought a house and now live in Biloxi almost as much as they live in Houston, where Chase gets essential medical care.
Chase struggles with strength in his hands and uses a wheelchair. He has survived a full spinal fusion and a brain hemorrhage in recent years.
But when he fishes, “he is full of joy and adventure, whether he catches one or someone else does,” he mother said. “He claps, cheers himself on and cheers on others.”
It was Rodolfich who taught Chase and his cousins to fish.
“When Chase was young, we realized it settled and calmed him,” his mother said. “He enjoys the thrill of the catch.”
Chase has two siblings in college, Michael Thompson said. This boat is his college — what his parents would have spent on college for him.
His father said: “If you could just see his face when he’s on this boat.”