Charles Michael Duke held his first-ever solo stage show to mark the 3rd anniversary of his double lung transplant, dedicated to his donor. He was born with cystic fibrosis so always had health issues. While performing a Christmas stage show in 2014 his lung collapsed and was admitted to hospital where his health deteriorated further and in 2015 and was given three years to live so was put on the transplant list.
He had several false alarms when transplants became available and in 2018 he had a successful double lung transplant. During that time he raised thousands for charity and he is now doing well with his acting and singing career. Since the transplant, his singing has improved significantly to the best he has ever sung. He was hoping to hold his concert earlier, but covid delayed it as he had to go into isolation for a long time.
Charles Said ‘I could never really call myself a singer at all before, I never really had the lungs before to support a voice, I’ve been able to build it up to the level that it’s at now. It took a lot of time, three years of working hard making sure I maintain and look after it.’
During the concert on Saturday night (16/10/21) at the Regent Theatre in Christchurch, Dorset the 26-year-old performed a duet with himself, with a recording from before the transplant and also another song sung with his supportive girlfriend of three years. The concert featured original songs he had written, along with well-known songs including many Elton John ones where he dressed up as Elton in a flamboyant costume and sung a poignant ‘I’m Still Standing’. During the evening he spoke about his journey and health issues from being a baby, the transplant to today. The show with hundreds in the audience gave him a standing ovation which included family and friends.
Charles talked about his life during the show saying, ‘For a lot of my childhood cystic fibrosis never really stopped me from doing what I wanted to do, from participating or joining in, I never really felt left out. A real big homage to my mum and my dad for not making me feel any different or that there were any obstacles. Other than going horse riding every Monday which is good therapy and missing a couple of weeks of school every now and again for some treatment, it really wasn’t that bad. In April 2015 I was given three years to live, which is a weird thing to be told, it’s difficult to accept.’
Discussing his feelings when he was about to have the transplant he said, ‘I was remarkably calm, my family were almost getting annoyed with me as I was scrolling through social media, but because I had two false alarms before, I was totally prepared for this one to not go ahead as well, it wasn’t until I woke up I realised it had gone ahead. I had heard of people going down for the operation and it didn’t go ahead. I woke and was like ‘Ok it’s happened’. I found I had to teach myself to breathe again, breathing is such a subliminal thing, your mind stops you at your maximum. So when you have a new maximum so your body is stopping you at your old maximum. I was in the hospital for 16 days, in the top 10 fastest recoveries, it was full-on every single day.’
He is encouraging people to have the conversation with family members about becoming a donor, adding ‘It’s everyone’s decision, everyone’s choice, at the end of the day, it’s the classic saying, you can’t take them with you. What you can do is save someone like me and I hope people look at the show and what I was able to do for two hours and go and go ‘yeah, I’d really like to do something like that for someone.’
The concert will be streamed free on his website on 7th November for 48 hours with a 'Pay What You Can' scheme with all profits being donated to three charities, www.charlesmichaelduke.com/tyo
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