‘I need to say thank you’

Dou­ble-lung trans­plant re­cip­i­ent grate­ful for com­mu­nity sup­port

The Packet (Clarenville) - - Front page - BY DANETTE DOO­LEY danette@nl.rogers.com

Jamie Chaulk has been think­ing day and night about how to thank the peo­ple of Clarenville for their sup­port dur­ing his wait for a dou­blelung trans­plant.

His way of reach­ing them was through his lo­cal news­pa­per.

“I had a dream that there was a story on me on the front page of the Packet. The name of the ar­ti­cle was ‘I need to say thank you.’ The next morn­ing, I woke up and I reached out (to the Packet). I wanted it to be a story to lift peo­ple’s spir­its,” Chaulk, 31, said dur­ing a re­cent phone in­ter­view.

Chaulk, who is from St. John’s, lives in Clarenville with his part­ner Perry Chaulk of Char­lot­te­town, Bon­av­ista Bay.

Jamie Chaulk was di­ag­nosed with cys­tic fi­bro­sis at age three months. More com­monly known as CF, the dis­ease is the most com­mon fa­tal ge­netic dis­ease af­fect­ing Cana­dian chil­dren and young adults.

Bat­tling CF his en­tire life, Chaulk’s health rapidly de­clined in 2012 when he con­tracted a rare bug that at­tacked his lungs.

“I was on a steady de­cline from 2012 right up un­til my surgery,” he said of his dou­ble-lung trans­plant, which took place on July 31, 2017 at Toronto Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal.

Chaulk was as­sessed for a trans­plant in Toronto in 2014 and again in Fe­bru­ary 2017. Dur­ing his sec­ond as­sess­ment doc­tors placed him on the trans­plant wait list. He and his part­ner moved to Toronto in April 2017 to await the trans­plant.

Be­cause of his de­clin­ing health, Chaulk spent all but one week in hos­pi­tal prior to his trans­plant.

“My trans­plant was on a Mon­day. The Thurs­day be­fore I got my call, the doc­tor gave me two weeks left to live,” he said.

The cou­ple lived in On­tario for six months, as Chaulk needed to stay there for three months fol­low­ing the trans­plant.

Chaulk and his part­ner were both self-em­ployed. The ex­pense of up­root­ing to another prov­ince was huge, he said.

“We drove our own ve­hi­cle up... (Perry) had an hour’s drive from my aunt’s house (to the hos­pi­tal). Even though my aunt pro­vided hous­ing, we had to cover ev­ery­thing back here, our rent, our in­sur­ance, and all of our other bills. Even though we weren’t get­ting any in­come.”

While he de­scribes those six months in On­tario as a very chal­leng­ing time, it’s im­por­tant to him and Perry to thank ev­ery­one who con­trib­uted to fundrais­ers on their be­half.

Al­though the fi­nan­cial help was grate­fully ap­pre­ci­ated, he said, just know­ing peo­ple were just think­ing about him also helped a great deal.

“Perry and I are com­pletely and ut­terly blown away by how we have been em­braced and have been shown com­pas­sion and gen­eros­ity by the peo­ple in Clarenville,” he said. “The trans­plant was the most se­ri­ous thing I’ve had to go through in my life, but the feel­ing that comes out of such a try­ing time has truly given me a sense about how much good­ness is left in this world.”

Sur­vivor

Sur­viv­ing CF isn’t the only thing Chaulk has con­quered thus far in his life.

He is now writ­ing a book about how he sur­vived child­hood phys­i­cal abuse and rape. He also es­caped a re­li­gious cult and sur­vived a sui­cide at­tempt, he said.

While he has yet to sign a pub­lish­ing con­tract, Chaulk said a cou­ple of pub­lish­ers have ex­pressed in­ter­est in his book, which he hopes to re­lease this fall.

Chaulk re­turned Toronto this past week­end to have cor­rec­tive surgery on his ster­num. It’s the only com­pli­ca­tion he’s had since his surgery, he said, adding his lungs are func­tion­ing great.

It’s dif­fi­cult to put to words what the gift of or­gan do­na­tion has meant to this young, ar­tic­u­late man – a gift that has saved his life.

“My donor has given me a life for the first time... I’m ac­tu­ally, for the first time, able to en­joy and ex­plore life with a nor­mal set of lungs. It’s a gift that’s im­mea­sur­able. It’s price­less.”

For more in­for­ma­tion on or­gan do­na­tion call 709-7776600, toll free 1-877-640-1110 or visit www.east­ern­health.ca and fol­low the link to Or­gan Do­na­tion.

STEPHEN CAISSIE PHOTO

Jamie Chaulk says he is now “liv­ing the life of my dreams” thanks to his or­gan donor.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Jamie Chaulk re­ceived a dou­ble-lung trans­plant on July 31, 2017.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Be­fore his trans­plant, Jamie Chaulk spent more than 550 days in the hos­pi­tal over a two-year pe­riod.

The cover of Jamie Chaulk’s up­com­ing book about his strug­gles with abuse.

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