CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Cystic fibrosis did little – for a good while, at least – to slow Sheldon O’Meara’s adventurous embrace of life when he was diagnosed at age 12 with this inherited disorder that causes severe damage to the lungs, digestive system and other organs in the body.
He played competitive hockey and got in his share of co-ed softball and volleyball games.
Trips to the Caribbean with great friends were enjoyed on numerous occasions.
O’Meara skied the Canadian Rockies in Lake Louise. He thrilled to the “breathtaking’’ Edge Walk on top of the CN Tower in Toronto.
He also took in many, many concerts throughout the Maritimes: AC/DC; Tragically Hip; Bryan Adams and Nickleback, to name just a few.
The greatest moment of his life, though, came almost 10 years ago when he wed “my beautiful wife Maria’’.
Sadly, this also marked the start of a major decline in health for the now 45-year-old Charlottetown resident, who had already been dealing with insulin dependent diabetes for 15 years.
CF took control in fierce fashion.
Chest infections would become increasingly common.
His kidneys floundered.
A few years ago, he became dependent on pumping oxygen into his body.
For the past two years, he has been receiving dialysis treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital three days a week, four hours per visit.
His diabetes became a growing menace as well. He has required more than 100 sessions of laser surgery to cauterize broken and bleeding blood vessels in his eyes to maintain sight.
In June 2016, he was sicker than ever before with a bad case of pneumonia.
“It was touch and go at times,’’ he says.
“I don’t remember much, but it got so bad family was called in and were told they didn’t think I would make it through the weekend.’’
His wife, Maria, has been – and continues to be – a soothing, constant presence throughout O’Meara’s trying ill health.
She regular sings “You Are My Sunshine’’ to him and never hesitates to tell him how much she loves him.
“She is my rock,’’ he says.
“I cannot express enough how much I love her.’’
Poor health forced O’Meara to end his 15-year run as a driver for a courier company, but he spent another three years working in the office before bringing his employment to a halt in 2013.
O’Meara notes another cruel aspect of his harsh cystic fibrosis has been in being stripped of his ability to father children. He is certain Maria would have been a marvelous mother.
“She is an amazing woman to sacrifice so much to be with me,’’ he says.
“It brings a lump in my throat every time I think what she gave up to be with me. These past 10 years had some great times, but CF has made it a very bumpy road, to say the least.’’
The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown has long been a familiar place to Sheldon O’Meara.
For the past two years, he has been making his way to the hospital three times a week for dialysis treatment.
He has also had many lengthy stays at the QEH, some up to six weeks at a time, to deal with complications of his cystic fibrosis and his diabetes.
Overall, O’Meara estimates he has spent well over two years of his life in the hospital.
“I’ve been here quite a few times,’’ he says in a rather grand understatement.
O’Meara, who will have his story featured during the 22nd annual QEH/Eastlink Telethon taking place over the weekend, raves about the care he receives at the QEH.
“The nurses make it comfortable. I’ve yet to see a cranky one,’’ he says.
“I’ve never felt unwelcomed.’’