ACME DELCO, N.C. (WECT) - A singer with a rare medical disorder has received a heartbreaking update from his doctors. It came at the same time Whiteville’s Dustin Chapman hit a high note in his professional life.
We’ve followed Chapman’s story since his diagnosis five years ago with Achalasia, a disease of the esophagus that makes eating impossible.
Hundreds of thousands watched video of the Whiteville native’s uplifting performance at the Duke Cancer Institute.
Doctors recently told Chapman they can’t operate on him again because of scar tissue from his past surgeries that didn’t work to fix his condition.
“You always hope someone is going to tell you we can make you better,” he said. "I know there are so many medical advancements that one day it could happen, but right now it is not in the plan. So, it was extremely tough.”
Despite the diagnosis, there is something lifting up his spirits.
In October, Columbus County Schools hired Chapman to work at Acme Delco and Hallsboro middle schools as a music instructor.
Chapman never considered a career in education. But now, teaching is music to his ears.
“This is something that I’m so passionate about – investing in these kids," he said. "The more we do, the more they are falling in love; there is nothing more rewarding.”
For someone who performed in front of thousands and alongside country stars like Scotty McCreery, his most rewarding experience wasn’t when he was in the spotlight, it was leading his 90 students at their winter concert last month.
“At the moment we got up there, it seemed like everything we’ve been over fell into place," he said. "It was the most satisfying and rewarding thing I think I’ve ever been a part of and if I can continue just seeing these little seeds that have been planted continue to grow, I can imagine doing that the rest of my life and I never thought about teaching.”
Chapman said his students don’t know the extent of his illness.
“I don’t go into full detail with them because one thing that I’m adamant about is I never want anyone feeling sorry for me," he said. "Just because I have a sickness doesn’t mean I can’t do what everybody else does.”
The district knew about his condition when it hired him.
“When they called me about the job they were like, ‘We understand and we know there are going to be appointments and there are going to be days when you don’t feel well. We know that, but we’re going to work with that and we’re going to work with you and we’re gonna work with you to give these kids the best education they can get.’ So it’s been amazing,” Chapman said.
The students may not be fully aware of his diagnosis, but they do know about his musical talents and resume. He’s a hero in the classroom.
He said he is writing a song about giving back, inspired by his work in the classroom.
“Being thankful for the people that invested in you because now you are able to invest in others, that’s something I’m working hard to finish as a song that talks strongly about that,” he said.
Chapman also works with a nutritionist to try to maintain his weight; if he can’t, doctors will have to put in a permanent feeding tube.
For now, he just works to finish each day on a high note in the classroom.