Music was my saving grace
Chloe Temtchine is a singer, songwriter and performer. She is also a double lung transplant recipient. And while the two identities may seem to be conflicting, Chloe has managed to bring them together in a way that exemplifies resilience and grace.
Chloe lived with multiple years of symptoms that no one could definitively diagnose. She tried out different doctors, treatments and hospitals, having all but given up. In 2013, after finishing an album and getting set for a world tour, Chloe suffered an episode that would land her in the emergency room and hand her the devastating diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension and pulmonary veno-occlusive disease. She was given labels like “terminal” and “chronic”, and she was told that without a transplant, her odds of survival were grim.
The drugs commonly used to treat pulmonary hypertension, she says, are not allowed in the treatment of pulmonary veno-occlusive disease, and the contraindications made her ineligible for many treatment options that were available. And so she went into research mode. Her options, she says, were to die or find a way to live, and her desire to live kicked in.
Determined to survive, and with the mindset that transplant would be the worst case scenario, Chloe began to put into practice what she calls her 5 key principles to change her life. Those 5 principles were mindset, diet, exercise, quality time with loved ones and creative expression.
Staring small, Chloe remembers when exercise meant walking from the bed to the bathroom. Her guiding principles did work when put into practice, and she did start to get better. Chloe improved in a way that seemed unattainable for someone with her diagnosis. Armed with her oxygen tank, whom she lovingly called Steve Martin, Chloe dove back into making music and living her life.
Until she unexpectedly got worse. While walking on the treadmill one day in her California home, her heart rate shot up to 175. Chloe went into cardiac arrest, and was placed on ECMO while the hunt for a pair of lungs began. There was no time to search for the perfect lungs, and the ones Chloe received were in no way ideal. But on August 5, 2020, she received her transplant.
She says it was like being born, not again, but for the first time. The time on ECMO had taken its toll on her body, and paralyzed vocal chords meant her singing career wasn’t secure. While somebody else may have taken these as signs to shift into a different phase of life, Chloe used them as fuel for the journey.
Her music shifted. “I wrote about superficial things pre-transplant,” she says. “I wrote for myself.” Currently working on a new album, now her music focuses on how far she’s come and the creative energy that fueled her survival.
“Music was my saving grace,” said Chloe. “It’s a form of expression. It inspired me, gave me peace. And everyone has their own version of that. As long as you’re breathing, there’s hope. There’s a way to do it.”
Rather than accept her diagnosis as a reason to never sing again, Chloe says she got creative and strategic in planning how she could still do what she loved, and not let her disease limit her life.
I asked Chloe how artistic expression helped her navigate post transplant life, and what advice she would offer to others. She said “Moments are what matter. This is your life, do what inspires you.”
“It would have been so easy to give up,” she explains, “but you just have to push through it. Keep going. The nightmare will hit you, but on the other side is this heavenly state.”
Pre-transplant, Chloe says she had this terrible idea of what a life with transplant looked like. And she’s glad to say none of that has been her experience.
While a struggle, her life has also been so incredible. With her second chance, Chloe now uses her music as a way to offer hope for others living with pulmonary hypertension, pulmonary veno-occlusive disease and other chronic illnesses.
In sharing her story, she raises awareness for organ donation and transplantation, and started both Brave Kids – a platform for children to turn their struggles into triumph – and the Chloe Temtchine foundation, which focuses on inspiring those living with pulmonary arterial hypertension through entertainment.
For all information on Chloe, links to her various social media accounts and to hear her music, you can go to www.chloetemtchine.com.
Written by Alisha Heibert