Story of healing takes Hope teen to Super Bowl

By Amy Forbus, Editor

February 7, 2014

Nate Carter had a tough year in 2012.

The athletic middle-school student saw his seventh-grade football season disappear like the 70 pounds he lost during the month he spent in Arkansas Children’s Hospital. But he’d fought a life-threatening illness, and won.

Doctors had told Bitsy and Anthony Carter that their son might not pull through. A rare disease, Wegener’s granulomatosis (also called granulomatosis with polyangiitis, or GPA), had caused inflammation of Nate’s blood vessels, leading to a number of serious complications. When he was admitted to the hospital, his lungs were nearly filled with blood.

Nate and parentsWegener’s granulomatosis is not curable, but it is treatable and manageable. With expert attention to his medical needs and a lot of prayer—much of it from his fellow church members at First United Methodist Church Hope, where his mother serves as pianist—Nate has experienced a full recovery.

From ICU to QB

It took serious effort, though, for him to reach a point where his doctors gave him the thumbs-up to play football. His dream of returning to the football field served as his primary motivation to rebuild his strength. In 2013, Nate’s work paid off, and he earned the position of starting quarterback on his school’s eighth-grade football team.

The experience also led him to enter an essay into a "Why I Love Football” contest sponsored by the National Football League. Five winners would be chosen to attend Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. In his essay, Nate wrote of his illness, and how his desire to play football aided in his recovery. 

When he was chosen as a finalist, the NFL sent a video crew to Hope to capture Nate’s story. The video, now available at www.togetherwemakefootball.com, was voted a winner by NFL fans. 

"Football has taught me that with God’s help, you can do anything,” Nate says at the close of the video.

At an early January surprise party, Nate and his parents received tickets to the Super Bowl, and his win was announced on national television Jan. 19.

Supportive church

Nate professed his faith in Christ and was baptized following his participation in First UMC Hope’s 2012 confirmation class, said the Rev. Steve Johnson, the church’s pastor. Nate has served as an acolyte in the past, and now participates in the church’s youth group.

Nate on field
"He and his family give God the glory for his recovery, as well as acknowledging the excellent medical care he received,” Johnson said.

"They’ve been my backbone,” Bitsy Carter said of First UMC Hope. "The church loves him and is completely supportive.” 

One Sunday during Nate’s hospitalization, the entire congregation posed for a photo while dressed in custom-made "Team N8 Dawg” t-shirts. They emailed the image to the Carters as a show of their support.

"I opened up that picture and just started crying,” Bitsy Carter said. "To physically see people standing behind you like that, and knowing that they were praying... they’re an amazing church family. My music led me there, but I’m thankful we’re there now because they’ve supported us. He’s their baby.”

For his part, Nate is aware of—and grateful for—the amazing healing he has experienced. While he isn’t entirely comfortable with all the attention, his mom says he’s handled it "with the ultimate grace, giving God credit.”

Flare-ups of Wegener’s granulomatosis can be unpredictable, but for now, Nate’s condition remains under control. Bitsy Carter is grateful that their family can now be part of raising awareness of the disease. Her constant prayer for Nate: "Keep him happy, keep him healthy, keep him normal.”

"I’ve said that over and over, and God has answered our prayers over and over,” she said. "We can’t get enough word out about how good God is.” 

To view a video of Nate’s story, along with those of other winners and finalists, visit www.TogetherWeMakeFootball.com; or watch the winning stories in "Football America: Our Stories," an hour-long special on FOX on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 2, at noon Central time.


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