WHITEVILLE, NC (WECT) - Heading into the new year, Dustin Chapman has a few goals, one of which is to beat his rare disease.
Chapman has been fighting Achalasia, a disease that limits his ability to eat and drink. It affects about one in every 100,000 people.
Now, he said this is the worst things have been mentally and physically in his fight. Chapman is at NYU’s Winthrop Hospital, where there is a special surgeon for the disease.
Surgeons split the upper half of his esophagus on Dec. 5, hoping that would allow him to eat. Clamps and staples are holding his esophagus together. The surgery, however, hasn’t worked.
“I can’t tell any improvements so far, and they said by this point I should be seeing significant improvements, so they’re giving it about four more weeks," Chapman said.
“If nothing has changed by then, then they are basically going to consider it as a failed procedure and they’re going to put a permanent feeding tube in my stomach and we’re just going to move on from there,” he said.
He lost his voice for almost a week after that surgery and said that has been the most stressful part of all of this because music has gotten him through.
“Singing has also helped me put words when I couldn’t think of what to say. Songwriting has been a big outlet for that as well, so I’m a music major in college and that’s what I’m pursuing as a career, but just having that as an outlet has let me put my emotions into ways that they can relate to other people," Chapman said.
“I was trying my best to talk and say stuff, but it was just not coming out and then I started worrying about my career because I was like what if this is a permanent thing, but thankfully it wasn’t and everything seems to be ok,” he said.
He’ll have another surgery Wednesday to take out the staples and clamps, a routine procedure after his last surgery. After that is done, Chapman will go back to college and hopes to see improvements. If not, doctors will put in a permanent feeding tube.
Chapman said his goal for 2019 is to spread more awareness about the disease.
“I’m just trying my best to bring exposure and awareness to the disease so more people are aware of what it is," he said.
“If they’re having similar symptoms, they can go to the doctor and be like, ‘I’m going through this. I’ve seen this story this kid was going through a similar thing can we do some testing to see if this is what it is and that might help them you know along that way,’” Chapman said.
He hopes to do this through his music career and social media. He also wants to perform at the Grand Ole Opry this year.