Their little cottage in need of repair, Wayde Dunley and his wife, Chelsea, submitted their final audition tape for Channel 7 renovation show House Rules in July 2017. With his landscaping skills and her passion for interior design, they dreamed of turning their tiny slice of NSW South Coast into their “dream home”.
“Wayde and I had always joked about going on [the show] before we even bought the house that really needed renovating,” Chelsea told Now to Love.
“We only bought a two-bedroom miner’s cottage that was 110 years old so it needed a lot of love and obviously it was quite small, so once we had our daughter Koa [in 2016], that was the thing that gave us a push.”
But the following day, with their tape filed, a tragedy shattered that dream.
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The 28-year-old West Tigers player fell while climbing down a rock ledge at Bundeena, south of Sydney, during a fortnightly fishing trip. He was rushed to hospital with critical head injuries, but doctors were unable to save him.
On Sunday night’s episode of House Rules, Chelsea shared Wayde’s story and spoke of how, through his death, her generous husband had given the gift of life.
“His heart remained beating really strong, so it was only fitting for the person that Wayde was, that we donated his heart,” she said. “So he’s gone on to save another person’s life, and his heart continues to beat.”
In an Instagram post on the anniversary of Wayde’s death, Chelsea wrote that the recipient had contacted her with a message of thanks.
“They had written to express their gratitude and love and shared that they have gone from thinking of planning their funeral prior to the transplant to making the biggest of bucket lists once they woke up and realised they had survived. This is what we want to hear. They are going to make the most of Waydes big beautiful heart,” she wrote.
There are moments which mark your life. Moments when you realise nothing will ever be the same and time is divided into two parts- before this and after this. That moment came 1 year ago today when the centre of our world , the shining light in our lives was taken to soon. With such a thirst for life and so much pride in the life he chose. Such an incredible human being! The best in my opinion! Wayde was certainly special! Everyday I wish it were different. I love him so unbelievably much and miss him from every second of everyday and always will! It’s hard to fathom that it’s been a whole year and even harder to fathom the lifetime ahead for us without him. It doesn’t get easier with time, moving forward is the biggest challenge because all you want to do is go back! But I can hear waydes voice so clearly in my head telling me ” that you’ve got this babe” and with that comes this overwhelming feeling I have to make him proud and give this life with our beautiful Koa all I can! I know it’s what he would want and that’s what keeps me going. Koa and I live for him now ❤️ We would really love to thank everyone that in the past year has helped us in anyway they can… From the support of a text message , phone call, visit, flowers, cards, donations from the football club, the wharfs, the go fund me page, the benefit night, golf day, the list goes on….! With special mention to the Draper’s who whipped straight into action making so much of that possible and who have continued to care and support Koa and I like family. The generosity of so many has shined some light on the darkest time of our lives. It has been a constant reminder that there is still so much good in this world , and it has meant everything to spend this year with Koa, and not worry a great deal about all the added pressures! Without the help we have received I can tell you, I would not have been able to keep the roof of our treasured home over our heads. So from the bottom of our hearts, we thank you all so, so much!! It also gave us great comfort learning just how many lives wayde touched in the process! Also to update everyone that we have had some contact from the recipient of waydes…
After finding out about Chelsea’s story, House Rules organised for final three teams of the 2018 season to renovate her two-bedroom Woonona cottage, just as she and her husband had planned.
Chelsea told Now to Love she is thrilled with the result of the makeover, which aired on Sunday night. In each corner she notices touches that remind her of her husband, and that she will use to tell her now 17-month-old daughter about her “wonderful” dad.
“She was seven months old when he died and it was only a week later she started crawling,” she said. “So all these milestones have just been shared between her and I but there are photos everywhere in the house, I show her videos, we talk about Dad, so she obviously knows who he is.
“Everything that’s happened, hopefully it will be beneficial to Koa, and it’ll show just how in love her parents were and always will be.”