Cornwall is going to the Olympics

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I’m sure when the Winter Olympics hit our airwaves in Canada, there will be hundreds of stories “behind the story.” I’m going to share one with you ahead of time.

Alison Proulx is 30 years of age, and lives in Cornwall with her husband. She works at Advantages Advertising for her mom and dad, Linda and Kevin Wilson. So far to be truthful, the story is pretty general and not much to it.

Alison Proulx is 30 years of age. The medical profession, not too long ago, wasn’t sure she’d make it to 31. Alison has spent a lot of time in hospital recently, in Toronto. You see, she needed a double lung transplant. “I was born with cystic fibrosis and my lung capacity was down to ten percent which means I needed a lot of oxygen just to breathe. It was the worst six months of my life. Now it didn’t feel that bad to me but apparently it was pretty bad. The doctors didn’t think I was going to come home,” said Alison.

Alison is home and she’s feeling pretty good thank you very much. The double lung transplant happened on Feb. 16, 2009. “It actually happened on Family Day. There’s a lot of karma going on for me right now. I was in the hospital for seventeen days and then I had to stay in Toronto for the first three months in case something happened,” she says.

This is all very interesting but is not the real story behind the story. Double lung transplant patient Alison is going to the Winter Olympics. “I’ll actually be there for the one year anniversary for my double lung transplant,” said Alison, “I’ll be the hostess for the events area working in the athlete’s village. I’ll be greeting athletes as they come in letting them know where the various venues are.”

She says it’s the best gift ever to be able to spend some time at the Olympics with the athletes, the other workers and volunteers. She’s come a long way since being told she might not make it home again while she was in Toronto. “I applied on line (for the Olympic job) and I waited patiently—(she pauses)—okay, so it wasn’t patiently, I was very impatient. I think I called them every two months to find out if I was in. Finally I got the call and actually I was in Toronto when I got the call for the interview. They asked me why I wanted to work at the Olympics and I said ‘I just had a double lung transplant and I’d like to spend my one-year anniversary with the lungs at the Olympics.’”

The lady on the other end of the line said, “I guess you’re in.” “Then I found out for sure, I think it was June when I got the position.”

Ali’s been counting the days when she will realize a dream at the Winter Olympics. She leaves at the end of the January and comes back in March. Expenses are taken care of, except for flight out there. She’s staying with her aunt and uncle while in Vancouver.

Ali says, “I was hoping to get in to see some hockey and some snowboarding. The hockey is five minutes from where I’ll be working but the snowboarding is in Whistler, B.C. Maybe on my day off I can get a deal on tickets still available at last minute.”

Ali says one of her favourite sports was figure skating until the controversy hit about judging in a recent competition. Since then, she says, she’s turned her back on the sport. “With snowboarding you get your creativity and you get everything you’re missing from figure skating because they’re (the snowboarders) doing amazing stunts and of course everybody wants to watch the hockey.”

Ali says she’s never tried either sport. “I like to watch. I’m very passionate about being an observer!”

We know Ali is going to create memories of a lifetime, a lifetime that was going to be cut short, but Ali is a positive person and she was “positive” she was going to pull through. She has.

Now, there’s more to this.

While she was in Toronto, Ali thinks back to the time when all the visitors that came to see her that she felt like she was a celebrity. “The chief of police (Dan Parkinson) came to see me and made me a special constable so I have a badge and everything and I feel super-special,” she said.

When asked how she was feeling now, Ali says she feels “fantastic.” “I actually just got over a cold and I was impressed that I could actually get over it.”

As it turns out, the cold may not have been Ali’s at all. It seems the donor of the lungs tested positive for a virus called CMV and it’s believed that’s where the cold stemmed from in the first place.

But because of how Cornwall was there in Alison’s time of need, we now have the best ambassador of the city anyone could ask.

The message she will take from Cornwall to the Winter Olympics: She says she’s going to wear her Cornwall jacket, which she received as a gift from Mayor Bob Kilger, and she’s going to tell everyone about the Ontario city she is from. She says it’s a wonderful town and she hopes to have the opportunity to sell some people on at least visiting the area, if not settling down in it. “I’ll plug Cornwall left and right. I absolutely love my city. The people are amazing and the community is awesome. People I don’t even know sent me get-well cards (after her double lung transplant). You can’t ask for more than that.”

Needless to say, Ali is also a great ambassador for the organ transplant program.

As far as Ali is concerned, the organs go to waste after a person dies and she believes everyone should sign their organ donor card. Ali says she believes everyone is healthy in the afterlife, no matter what organs are left behind in this life. “It just gives some people a second chance at life,” she said.

Ali gets a check-up every three months for this first year with a new double lung and after the first year, the check-ups will come every six months. Ali recalls when she went for her new health card, the person working the desk asked her if she wanted to donate her organs if that time came. “I told her I’m double lung transplant recipient. The person said, ‘I guess you’re all for transplants then’,” she said with a laugh.

Ali says it’s been quite the ride over the past year, but with so many nice and caring people surrounding her, she knew she was going to win the race. Ali already has her “gold” medal. The rest is bonus.

Asked if she had anything else to add to the conversation, she just wanted to mention her family. “They’re very strong. I get a lot of my strength from my parents, I have to admit. It’s fantastic.”

Ali ended by saying, “I live in the best community ever.”

We’re the better for it because of your presence as well, Ali.

I’m John Divinski.

Organizations: Olympics

Geographic location: Cornwall, Toronto, Canada Vancouver Whistler Ontario

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