A Breath of Fresh Air

Dr. John Chambers loves breathing in the fresh air and finds pure joy riding his Rad Power Bike. He also says the light pedaling works wonders for his compromised lungs. Not one to shy away from a challenge, he pedals until he feels a bit winded, then turns up the power, giving him the freedom to exercise, explore, and savor the beauty around him.

A distinguished ophthalmologist who worked at Island Hospital for 34 years, Dr. Chambers’ compassionate care and expertise endeared him to countless patients. But, his impact goes well beyond the examination room, and with over 50 years of service as a Rotarian, he continues to make a mark on the health and well-being of Anacortes.

In 2017, after decades of caring for others, Dr. Chambers was confronted with his own health crisis and a diagnosis of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF). IPF is a condition in which the lungs become scarred, and breathing becomes increasingly difficult. Determined to stay active and fully embracing life, Dr. Chambers began pulmonary rehabilitation at Island Health. He also began using oxygen at night and driving to Bellingham to see a pulmonologist.

In 2021, Dr. Chambers, like countless others, faced the uncertainties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Navigating through this period required adaptability, especially for someone with lung issues. Despite all precautions, Dr. Chambers contracted COVID in 2022. He had mild symptoms and didn’t think much of it but would later learn that his lungs had been impacted.

In May 2023, Dr. Chambers experienced a major health event¾an embolism that originated in his lungs. Confronting the unfamiliar sensation of “air hunger,” he spent eight days in the hospital. Dr. Chambers knew follow up with a pulmonologist would be required, and he and his wife Kirsti were not looking forward to going back and forth to Bellingham as they had done in 2017. Fortunately, Dr. Chambers was able to make an appointment with Dr. Tomasz Ziedalski, one of four pulmonologists who began serving the community in July 2023 at Island Health.

Following his first visit with Dr. Ziedalski, Dr. Chambers embarked on a three-month pulmonary rehabilitation program. He saw an incredible 233% improvement in lung health over this period. Today, he continues his workouts in pulmonary rehab, defying the odds with every step. His commitment to fitness goes beyond the conventional, as he can often be spotted riding his electric bike on the trails and back streets of Anacortes. With an oxygen tank neatly tucked in the front basket, Dr. Chambers pedals his way to freedom, covering impressive distances even after his major health event.

Dr. John Chambers’ journey is one of resilience and an unyielding commitment to well-being, and his story is just one of many that have inspired Island Health to expand pulmonology services closer to home.

Today, Island Health is the only provider of outpatient pulmonology services in Skagit, Island and San Juan counties. Island Pulmonology provides our community with expert diagnosis and treatment plans for patients like Dr. Chambers and others with respiratory illnesses, including asthma, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), sleep disorders and more.

To best serve the growing number of patients who rely on Island Health for the entire continuum of pulmonary care, the Island Health Foundation will raise funds through its 21st Annual Gala of Hope, In Our Wildest Dreams, which will be held Saturday, April 27.

You are invited into the lush mystique of the jungle to a one-of-a-kind event that will help patients like Dr. Chambers and others in our community receive the gift of better breathing.

To learn more about pulmonology and its impact on your community and region, please visit www.islandhealthfoundation.org/gala-of-hope.