Dance Marathon makes a difference in young lives


Photo: Kelsey Kremer/Iowa State Daily

Nick Bassett, 18, of Boone has been involved with Dance Marathon since 2001 after being diagnosed with a benign spinal cord tumor. Bassett never let his disability stop him from getting involved at school. He is active in FFA, choir, theater and the school paper.

Frances Myers

Nick Bassett lives the life of any other teenager.

As a senior at Boone High School, he is involved in FFA, 4-H, speech, drama, the school newspaper and both advanced choral and swing choir.

He enjoys hunting, fishing, singing and, most of all, watching and cheering at the Boone High School sports games.

He makes it evident he is “the biggest sports fan.”

Nick’s energetic personality and fiery red hair turn heads. Nick is enthusiastic and exudes a positive, happy attitude for life that is nothing short of contagious.

But there are a few things that set Nick apart.

Nick has scoliosis. He was diagnosed with the disorder and a benign spinal cord tumor when he was less than 2 years old, and now suffers difficulty with common activities due to an abnormal curve in his spine, including walking.

Nick used to walk without much help.

In 2003, Nick started using crutches. His situation changed during the spring of his sophomore year in 2009.

“During a concert, I took a really nasty fall,” Nick said. “My crutch fell in the gap in the risers and I went down hard.”

After his tumble, Nick spent the first eight days of his summer in the hospital healing from an infection and pressure wounds.

While he was in the hospital, doctors discovered that the fall left Nick not only a few pressure sores, but also with a Stage IV pressure ulcer on his right hip.

Stage IV is the most severe type of pressure ulcer, according to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research website. In this type of ulcers, damage is done to the underlying muscle, bone and even supporting structures such as tendons and joints along with a large-scale loss of skin occurring.

The sore took 18 months to heal.

“I never thought of my life as different until the sore came along,” Nick said.

He had to go to a wound clinic in Boone twice a week every week until the injury healed. During the time it took for the ulcer to heal, Nick had to use a wound vac.

A wound vac is used on pressure sores to suck the fluids from the sores. A sponge is cut to fit inside the wound and attached to it is a pump that acts as a vacuum to draw the moisture from the wound.

“In a lot of ways, having that ulcer was even worse than going through the surgeries he’s had to go through,” said Ann Bassett, Nick’s mother, referring to the 10 surgeries Nick has undergone. “With all of his surgeries, within six to 10 days life goes back to normal, but with this … this was ongoing and never-ending. There were a lot of rough days to get through.”

Doctors told Nick he was fully recovered in December.

“It was a great Christmas present,” Nick said.

He will still be at risk for at least a year but is keeping his chin up.

“You just have to get up in the morning put a smile on your face and go,” he said. “There’s nothing to it to get you through it.”

Part of the reason Nick was able to keep positive was the impact the Children’s Miracle Network made on him.

Through the organization, which is supported by ISU Dance Marathon, Nick has gotten the chance to meet many well-known people and have many memorable experiences. He has met George Strait, George Foreman, Lee Ann Rimes, Joe Nichols, Jason Brown and others.

Nick was the 2004 Miracle Child of Iowa for the Children’s Miracle Network and got the chance to travel with other kids representing their respective states to Disney World and the White House in Washington, D.C.

Nick and Ann first heard about ISU Dance Marathon in May 2001.

He remembers his first trip to the annual event well.

“We came up and the first thing you noticed was the booming music. You could hear all the kids upstairs,” Nick said.

He and his mother had such a great time at that Dance Marathon they started counting down the days until the next one.

It was about two years later that Nick started using his talents at Dance Marathon by singing in the closing ceremonies.

His first year he sang “Check Yes or No,” by George Strait. Each year since, he has been asked to come back and sing again.

“I always sing two songs. One is fast to get the crowd into it and then the second one is always a slow, heartfelt one,” Nick said.

Nick said his favorite memory of his time in Dance Marathon was when the girls on his dance team were his backup singers while he sang “One Hot Mama” by Trace Adkins.

“I’m not quite sure exactly what song I’m doing but I do plan on doing ‘You Raised Me Up’ [by Josh Groban] for a slide show I’m doing,” Nick said, referring to a presentation he has put together of pictures of favorite memories from his past ten years in Dance Marathon.

This year is Nick’s last year, but he wants to pass the experience along to a younger child so they get a chance to enjoy Dance Marathon as much as he has.

“I am choosing to retire from being a kid this year because it is my tenth year,” Nick said. “I can’t think of a better way to retire than the year I graduate high school.”

He does however hope to stay involved with Dance Marathon in the future.

Depending on my studies and how busy I am, I want to try and be as involved as I can be,” he said. “I don’t ever want to lose touch with Dance Marathon. It has changed my life and I will never forget it.”

Just like his classmates, Nick plans to go to his senior prom and then graduate this May, pursuing a higher education at Boone-DMACC and later on Grandview University to major in radio broadcasting. He hopes one day to become a radio personality.

For now, Nick Bassett is just living the life of any other teenager.