CLARENVILLE, NL — Jamie Chaulk has been thinking day and night about how to thank the people of Clarenville for their support during his wait for a double-lung 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.”
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 last month 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 709-777-6600, toll free 1-877-640-1110 or visit www.easternhealth.ca and follow the link to Organ Donation.