When a child graduates from high school most parents are anticipating their child to venture off to school or begin to make their mark in the workforce. However, for Wanda Chaboyer, she relied on her son Emile to take a very different path right after high school and become her full time caregiver as she prepared for a double lung and heart transplant.
After being diagnosed with primary pulmonary hypertension, a disease affecting both the heart and lungs, Wanda had no choice but to move her family away from their home in Cumberland House Saskatchewan into Saskatoon where she could be closer to the hospital and specialists. On oxygen all the time, and very ill, she relied on her son for almost everything. Not long after Emile’s high school graduation, he and his mom moved from Saskatoon and then later to Edmonton in hopes of a transplant. While his mom was in hospital in Edmonton, Emile stayed at the University of Alberta residence. “I was very dependent on my son. He had to grow up fast and be strong for me. I remember being so scared and sick,” recalls Wanda.
In October of 2007, Wanda was given a gift of a heart and lungs to save her life. “One of my first memories after waking up from my transplant was how different it was to breathe. I was so used to gasping for air, and I didn’t have to do that anymore,” remembers Wanda.
Wanda and Emile remained in Edmonton for another three months while she recovered. Each day they attended medical appointments and attended a special physio therapy program for transplant patients. “Even though it was hard, physiotherapy helped me get strong again. I so love physio", says Wanda. “I wanted to do whatever I could and be the best I could be with the amazing gift I was given.”
Now a grandma, and living back home in her community, Wanda is also a Breathe Ambassador for The Lung Association. She shows her appreciation and gives back by taking care of herself and helping others. “I exercise one to two hours a day to care for the heart and lungs I was given. I give back by helping others who are waiting for transplants by speaking with them about my journey. I also drive my family members who need help to medical appointments now that I am healthy again and can do that,” she says with a smile. “I remember being too sick to drive myself before my transplant and relying on my family to take me to my appointments. I like that I can be that person for them now.” Wanda hopes her journey will inspire others to know they are not alone and give back in ways that are meaningful to them. If she could offer any advice, she says “to be thankful for every day.” She thanks God each and every day for what she has been given.