If you’re lucky, maybe you know someone with Charcandrick West’s infectious exuberance, someone who’ll engage about anyone he encounters and changes the feeling in a room.
Because the Chiefs’ running back just enjoys it, for one thing.
And because “you never know what a person’s going through,” as he put it.
His playfulness and goodwill are enhanced by a disarming smile, one that his mother saw from day one — “he came out smiling,” she said — and that later deterred any number of spankings he had coming.
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“That smile would grab your heart,” his mother, Demetrice Ford, said in a phone interview.
So by his very nature West might have been the happiest and most radiant guy in the locker room, anyway, one who relishes being on the team even as what coach Andy Reid calls a “relief pitcher.”
(Albeit one who scored two touchdowns last week in the Chiefs’ 42-34 win at Houston and figures to be a factor in some way or another Sunday against Pittsburgh).
But there is much more to his appreciation for being here and, for that matter, for life itself.
You never know what a person’s going through, after all, or been through.
One day in November 2006, West woke up with his legs virtually paralyzed, his body consumed by red splotches and experiencing a burning sensation all over.
Everything looked different from that day forward, especially in the frightening months before he would be diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
The night before he woke up engulfed in the autoimmune disorder, the high school freshman scored three touchdowns in his first varsity game.
“It went from, like, man, I thought I was going to be this amazing football player,” he said, “to, ‘Damn, I hope I’m living.’ “
Seized up into a ball at their home in Cullen, La., in a panic he screamed, “Mama, help, help, help.”
She hurried to his room and found him in agony, and when she pulled the covers off him, she said, “It was like opening up a door and flames coming off.”
He had a 104-degree fever that wouldn’t go away for weeks, the family says.
Thus began a harrowing six-week ordeal that has implications to this day, a span during which West was taken from hospital to hospital to hospital in search of an answer.
Even as he was in continuous pain, could barely move, kept so little food down that he melted from 185 pounds to 120 and fought off sleeping.
“I was scared to sleep,” he said. “Like, if I go to sleep I might not wake up.”
That wasn’t even the worst part, really.
Nor was it when a doctor told West and his mother and stepfather, Toccara Ford, “You can pretty much forget about football: You’ll be lucky if you can even walk again.”
Toccara Ford, was devastated and furious.
West’s mother said, “No, we’re not listening to that.”
So off they wheel-chaired him and drove on to the next hope, she said, Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock.
No, the worst part was the mystery.
Not being able to put a name on whatever had invaded his body, and thus having no real means to even begin addressing it.
They probed for everything from A-Z, including testing him for hepatitis and HIV and West Nile virus.
In Arkansas, they took a bone marrow biopsy, West recalled, and he remembers being told something like, “If you move, this could possibly paralyze you.”
Through all this, there were times his mother wondered if he was ready to just give up.
In some ways, she’s still not sure how he didn’t emotionally surrender.
But as he thinks back now, he’ll tell you it’s because he knew he was loved.
His high school teammates came to visit him frequently, and his stepfather doted on him, literally often carrying him, and his mother slept on a little couch in his hospital room in Little Rock for 21 straight nights.
When he was asleep, sometimes she’d slip out to the family room for a few minutes so she could weep a little without him having a chance of knowing it.
“I had to stay strong for him,” Demetrice said. “He never once saw me cry.”
With so many other possibilities exhausted, doctors in Arkansas sent the family to rheumatologist Thomas Pressly at the Shriner’s Hospital back in Shreveport.
He diagnosed it.
The doctor prescribed Kineret injections, and next thing you know his mom has Charcandrick administering them to himself – an action he mimed the other day as he pointed all over his body to the spots he’d rotate the shots.
Those burned, too, but a few weeks later the pain was subsiding and he could move again and was on the path to recovery.
He had lost so much weight and so much speed but was encouraged … only to have a relapse the following spring.
At least this time, though, they knew what they were dealing with.
And after another sequence of injections, it subsided again.
It hasn’t returned since.
But it’s always right there, too, even if the word “junior” no longer exactly applies to West, 26.
“I’m in remission right now,” he said, smiling and adding, “I know how close it is.”
The last few days, in fact, he’s had a cold.
So his mother has been asking if he’s experiencing any of the symptoms, but he’s been able to reassure her it’s nothing unusual.
Still, he thinks about all that when he thinks of where he is, too.
He still thanks his mother every day, she says, especially for what she did for him during that time.
His first game back to full-go his sophomore year of high school, after enduring so much pain and fear, he cried during the national anthem because it was the final signal he was back.
The song and the ritual still hit him that way.
“I know all this stuff is going on, but that’s the time where I’m like, ‘Dang, I’m here,’ “ said West, an undrafted free agent out of Abilene Christian. “It’s the same feeling for me every time.”
There’s a new feeling with it now, too, for West, who also became more cognizant of taking nothing for granted when mentor Dante’ Coleman died at age 35 in the summer of 2015: West put his No. 35 game jersey in Coleman’s casket and bears a tattoo on his arm in his honor.
Now in his fourth NFL season, he has the stature to provide hope for others who suffer from an illness that afflicts approximately 50,000 children in the United States.
“The more success you have, the more people listen,” he said. “So now I can help others.”
That’s why he has lent his support to the Arthritis Foundation, including earlier this year taking part in a video with 10-year-old Kansas Citian Jillian Reid to help raise awareness and funds and hosting camps for kids at the Shriner’s Hospital back in Shreveport that he wants to make an annual event.
“I love football to death, I love it, but that’s not the biggest thing to me about being in the NFL,” he said. “Just doing stuff to show kids they still can be something, that’s what excites me.
“I don’t care if it’s a kid in China: If I have to make a trip to China to give a kid some motivation, I’ll do it. I’ll be there.”
Spoken as one who appreciates what he’s come from, where he is and what it all really means.
“If I don’t play another down, I’ve lived my dream,” he said, later adding, “The people around me, the people who care about me, even the people who don’t care about me, I want to show them that I care about them.”