Band teacher marches on despite medical issues

Band teacher marches on despite medical issues

Smithfield High School band teacher Kelly Chartier recently underwent surgery to alleviate symptoms of gastroparesis. Parents have organized a fundraiser on Oct. 21 to assist with medical costs. Her husband, Matt, Kelly, and children Travis, Benjamin, Emma, and Brianna Chartier all plan to attend.

SMITHFIELD – Smithfield High School band teacher Kelly Chartier is accustomed to the stage, but later this month she'll be sitting in the audience for a change.

The reason is bittersweet – members of the community have organized a benefit concert to cover medical costs associated with Chartier's life-threatening illness.

Chartier, of Rehoboth, Mass., is the first to tell you that she has a lot to be thankful for, whether it be her husband and their four children, her job as the Smithfield High School band teacher, or the community she considers family.

"I'm not ready to give that up yet," Chartier says.

She began to experience health problems in 2013, when discomfort led doctors to find a bowel obstruction. Following surgery, she was in the hospital for two months. Then doctors found a second bowel obstruction.

"Things just didn't seem right," Chartier recalls.

She felt there was a more serious underlying problem.

"You have to be your own advocate," Chartier says. "Keep pushing until you get an answer, because it's not in your head."

She got her answer when doctors diagnosed her with gastroparesis, a condition of paralysis in the stomach that slows or stops food from moving through the digestive tract. As a result, Chartier has not consumed solid food in nearly four years.

"Basically it's a chronic illness, you never get rid of it," she said.

To get the proper nourishment, Chartier receives total parenteral nutrition through a 12-hour IV process.

In spite of all this, she has continued to teach band.

"It's better to be here, even on the worst days," Chartier says. "I cherish the good days."

In an expanded effort to improve her quality of life, Chartier underwent surgery in July at Temple University Hospital in Pennsylvania to receive a gastric electrical stimulator. The device has been known to help patients eat small amounts of food again.

The procedure cost $50,000 and was not covered by Chartier's insurance, despite the fact that her nutritional needs cost the insurance company upwards of $60,000 a year.

"Between all the expenses of the surgery and driving to Pennsylvania ... it's ridiculously high," Chartier said.

Recovery from the surgery hasn't been easy either.

"There's been some complications," Chartier said. "We don't know yet the effectiveness."

Always the optimist, she added, "If it doesn't work, we will look at other options."

Chartier said her fortitude in the face of the condition is thanks in large part to the support of her community.

A group of parents have created a Friends of Kelly Chartier Facebook page and organized a GoFundMe fundraiser to raise money for the band teacher's medical costs.

Parents are also behind the Kelly Chartier Fundraiser featuring Steve Smith and The Nakeds on Saturday, Oct. 21, 6 to 10 p.m. at the North Providence Knights of Columbus, 675 Douglas Ave.

Chartier said she's stunned by the "unthinkable" generosity of her community, but she's not surprised. Whenever she appears to have a hard day, Chartier said, "They say, 'You can do this.'"

Tickets to the Oct. 21 event are $45 and include a pasta dinner and entertainment. All proceeds go directly to help Kelly Chartier. Tickets must be purchased in advance and are available through the following:

• David Brush: Apple Valley Insurance, 528 Putnam Pike, Greenville, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Call 401-949-0559.

• Vince Mattera, executive director, Rhode Island Music Educator Association, 667 Waterman Ave., East Providence. Email vpmattera@verizon.net or call 401-248-7080.

Make checks payable to Kelly Chartier.

Comments

If anyone wants to order tickets online, they can be purchased by going to https://www.rysc.net/orderitems.php?cid=5. If you want to order more than 1 ticket, you'll need to press the "Keep Shopping" button and then add to cart again. Thanks all for your support.
Please purchase tickets by Tuesday 10/17.

For information can be found at the Friends of Kelly Chartier Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/friendsofkellychartier/