Sports helped senior as mom fought COVID
For months, Cassville senior soccer and basketball standout Carson Whittemire had a message on his wrist tape Wildcat fans may not have noticed — “For Mom.”
On Sept. 23, 2020, Whittemire rushed his mother, Chris Whittemire, to Mercy Hospital for labored breathing, sure that she had been infected with the COVID-19 virus.
“She had been to Mercy once before already, and that trip was a struggle for all of us because she thought she was going to die — and she told me that repeatedly,” Carson Whittemire said.
After his mother tested positive, Whittemire, a captain on the soccer team, was sidelined due to quarantine and forced to watch home games from the student parking lot, though he was able to give halftime pep talks via a cell phone call on speaker.
“That really hurt, because the team seemed kind of lost at that time,” he said. “I spent a lot of time then wondering why us? Why was this happening to us?”
For 72 days, until mid-December, Whittemire’s mother was hospitalized, through the end of soccer season and into the basketball season.
“When it started, I was playing soccer still,” Whittemire said. “I used my mom’s battle to keep pursuing my sport and push myself further and further for her. Going into basketball, I kept pushing myself in sports because it was a way for me to cope.”
Whittemire said he became the family’s point-man for updating everyone on his mother’s condition, which was difficult for him at times.
“I kind of put myself in that position to keep people updated on mom’s journey, but I never had any debriefer myself,” he said. “Sports was a way for me to get away from all of that.”
Whittemire’s teammates and coaches also did not let him down, giving him a greater appreciation for when the soccer team, for instance, breaks down with a “Family on three — one, two, three, family!”
“I was constantly getting texts and calls from my teammates asking if we needed anything and how mom was doing,” Whittemire said. “It really showed me that family is not just who lives in your home with you. I’ve always said my sports teams were my family, but this experience really overwhelmed me with how much support I received and everyone being there for me.
“I always want to be that for everyone else, so it was a little different having it happen to me.”
Whittemire said Jake Forste, Cassville soccer coach, was a key figure in that support chain.
“Forste has been like an uncle to me ever since I started playing soccer,” Whittemire said. “He reached out numerous times and let me know if I needed to step back or sit out for any reason that he supported me and what I needed to do.
“My basketball coach, too, when that sport started, told me not to worry about coming to practice until my mom was where she needed to be.”
At that point, Whittemire’s mother was receiving dialysis, and he was taking her to the appointments. Now, she is recovered, working full-time again, and as of last week, no longer receiving dialysis treatments.
“The outreach we received was incredible,” Whittemire said. “Everyone was willing to help my family in any way they could. We always try to give as much as we can, and it was really humbling to have so much love and support given to us.”
Along with sports came another constant in Whittemire’s life that helped him get through the uncertain times — faith.
“My faith helped me stay content, and when people asked me how I managed everything, I would say that my ability to do that and my level of maturity is all a testament to God,” he said. “Without the peace of mind he was able to give me when I asked for it, I would have broken. I don’t know where I would have been, or if I would have even gone back to sports.
“It also helped me encourage my dad and brother when they were down. We had to remind one another that God has a plan through all of this.”
Whittemire said going forward, the experience has given him extra strength, which he hopes to use to help others.
“I would apply the strength I’ve gained from this by constantly being there for other people,” he said. ”I hope I can use this experience so when others are going through hard times I can show them it will be OK in the end and there’s no reason to fear or fret because God is in control.”