After he hit his head on the ground in a pole vaulting accident last year, they sawed off a third of his skull to relieve the pressure on his swelling brain.
They told his family that all hope was lost.
But Chase's family lives near Wichita, where a farm kid named Emil Kapaun was ordained a priest 69 years ago. The Kears prayed thousands of prayers to the soul of Father Kapaun, asking him to bend the ear of God. They chanted his name like a mantra.
And Chase woke up.
And he arose and walked.
His baffled doctors said his survival defied medical science. They told the Vatican later that it was a miracle.
So Chase became the latest chapter in the improbable story of Emil Kapaun, dead since 1951.
The story might become more improbable: The Army has recommended Kapaun for the Medal of Honor. The Vatican might make him a saint — if it decides he performed miracles.
Mike Dowe and William Funchess starved and shivered with Kapaun in a North Korean prisoner of war camp. So did Herb Miller and Bob Wood and Robert McGreevy.
They say Kapaun sometimes swore like a soldier. They say he gave away his own food as he starved.
They say that when all hope seemed lost, he rallied hundreds of filthy and ragged men to embrace life and forgive their enemies.
They don't consider themselves experts on miracles.
But they know what they saw.