Chauncy: A recipe for helping other kids

Chauncy wrote a cookbook to raise money for kids waiting for heart transplants.​
Chauncy Hood and his family will have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, not least the life-saving donor heart the 18-year-old received at Lurie Children's in August to replace his failing one. One thing is certain: Chauncy will be doing a lot of the cooking.

Cooking is a great way to express your creativity," says Chauncy, a high school senior who has cooked for his family since he was a young child. His dreams include earning degrees in both culinary arts and business administration and, ultimately, opening his own fine dining restaurant.

Those dreams helped Chauncy stay focused during the three months he spent in Lurie Children's Regenstein Cardiac Care Unit (CCU) waiting for a donor heart to become available.

"I had to keep motivating myself every day," he says. "I'd constantly remind myself that the reason I was waiting so long was to get the perfect heart."

Chauncy was born with a congenital heart defect that required three open-heart surgeries before he was 2. He did well until he was 17, when fluid began to build up in his abdomen, necessitating several stays at a suburban hospital. Ultimately, Chauncy was referred to Lurie Children's for evaluation for a heart and liver transplant. 

At Lurie Children's Heart Center, which is ranked No. 3 in the U.S. by U.S.News & World Report, he met Elfriede Pahl, MD, Medical Director of the hospital's Heart Transplant Program. Dr. Pahl told him he needed a new heart, and explained the transplantation process to him.

"Chauncy is very courageous," says Dr. Pahl, the Marvin E. Wodika Professor of Cardiology. "Even when he was put in a very difficult situation, he took everything in stride."

Chauncy spent his 18th birthday in the hospital. Finally, in August, a heart became available, and he underwent successful transplant surgery. The surgery necessitated another month in the hospital to recover. Finally, Chauncy went home.

Three months post-transplant, Chauncy is doing well, and has follow-up visits with the heart transplant team staff twice a month.

One of the ways Chauncy stayed busy in the hospital was to write down his favorite recipes so he wouldn't forget them. Ultimately, the collection of recipes was published as a limited edition book, "Chauncy Shows You the Chops," which he sold from his hospital room. Proceeds from sales of the book went buy gifts for other Lurie Children's patients waiting for new hearts.

The first run of 75 books were eagerly snapped up by CCU staff and families of patients. When one of his physicians suggested he use the cookbook's proceeds for his college fund, Chauncy had a ready response.

"Until you've been in a patient bed, you don't know what it's like," he said. "These kids need it more than I do."

Chauncy's love for cooking began one morning when his mom, Latricia, made him cook breakfast after he got into a fight with his older brother. Instead of viewing it as a punishment, he embraced cooking, and is now considered the family's head chef.

While Chauncy's signature macaroni and cheese (see recipe below) will be one of the items for the Hood family's Thanksgiving table this year, he's letting his mom cook the main course.

"I don't trust myself to cook a turkey yet!" he says.