The CHEO BBQ 2021 Honorary Family

CHEO Grandparents Rock!  

by Stephanie Egan

It’s often said there is nothing like a grandparents’ love – and Hubert and Nicole Lachaine are living proof! They are devoted to their daughter Melanie, her husband Luc and their granddaughters Janelle and Camille. Camille, lives with cystic fibrosis (CF) a progressive, genetic disease characterized by the buildup of thick, sticky mucus that can damage many of the body’s organs including the lungs. There is no cure.

Melanie has worked in CHEO’s Dental Clinic for 23 years. She’s been a CHEO mom since Camille’s diagnosis 12 years ago. Managing Camille’s CF requires daily interventions, medications and physiotherapy to prevent the buildup of mucus, especially in her lungs. Camille does machine-assisted breathing exercises to maintain her lung function. She also needs to eat, a lot, and take medication to help her body absorb nutrients because CF plays havoc with digestion.

Camille is usually admitted to CHEO at least once or twice a year, sometimes for up to a month. “She begins to feel it and usually tells us it’s time to go to CHEO,” Melanie explains. Sometimes Melanie sleeps at the hospital, and in the morning hits the shower, dons her scrubs and heads to the Dental Clinic to work. It’s at these times when Hubert and Nicole are indispensable when it comes to managing Camille’s condition.

Hubert worked for the government and Nicole was a teacher. Both are retired and live close by. “They’re lifesavers,” Melanie says, shaking her head. “We trust them to be our eyes and ears when we can’t be at Camille’s bedside.” They will spend the entire day with Camille at CHEO. Hubert takes the morning shift and Nicole comes on duty for evenings.

Camille can’t hide her smile when talking about CHEO and her beloved grandparents. “My grandpa is always belting out songs,” Camille exclaims with a laugh. “He wants everyone to join in – the other kids, the nurses!” His other specialty is giving Camille hand and foot massages with lotion. Nicole whips up goodies all morning in the kitchen before heading to CHEO.

“My grandma makes amazing soup, cookies and treats for me. And there’s always crafts and fun pajamas to wear,” Camille says with a grin. But her favorite thing is the candy bucket! 

People living with CF must consume a lot of calories, so Nicole came up with a plan. “There’s not much space, so I found a purple bucket to hang from Camille’s IV pole. Now she always has candy within arm’s reach,” Nicole says laughing. “And I just keep filling the bucket!”

And the fussing doesn’t stop at CHEO. Hubert and Nicole ensure everything is also good on the home front. Janelle rolls with the ups and downs of her sister’s illness and Hubert and Nicole make sure her favourites are around too, and often shuttle her to dance classes.

“My grandparents make my life…and my CF life, better,” Camille says smiling widely.  “And I don’t mind being at CHEO,” Camille says. “They’re so great, and the doctors and nurses explain what’s going on with me in a way I understand.”

Her CF life during COVID times has been a challenge. “It was so tough at the beginning, not being able to see my grandparents, but now they’re in our bubble!” Porch visits and FaceTime Bingo have made way for the return of their weekly sleepovers.

“Camille’s diagnosis was scary for all of us at first,” Nicole says. “But it’s our job to surround her with positivity!”

“We are always hoping for new and improved CF therapies,” Hubert adds. “But for now, we are lucky to live in Ottawa and to have CHEO taking such good care of our Camille. And to have the gift of time to share with our grandchildren.”

Camille and her grandparents Hubert and Nicole Lachaine