The parents of a South Surrey man who passed away after having an epileptic seizure while swimming are donating a quarter of a million dollars to help fund care for those diagnosed with epilepsy and advance research into the disorder.
Drs. Peter and Stephanie Chung, are honouring the memory of their first-born son, Joseph, by donating $250,000 to VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation to support epilepsy fellows at Vancouver General Hospital in their efforts to provide hope for future patients and their families.
Fellows are specialists who undergo additional specialty training for up to two years in a particular area. They work side-by-side with a hospital’s leading sub-specialists, taking part in intensive, hands-on training to gain expertise and advanced skills to care for patients and families, notes a release from the foundation.
“This generous gift will have a long-lasting impact on epilepsy research and care in B.C.,” said Dr. Yahya Aghakhani, director of the VGH epilepsy program.
“By investing in our fellowship program, the Chung family are nurturing the next generation of epilepsy experts. This will ultimately improve both care and treatment for the thousands of patients who are referred each year to the Epilepsy Program at VGH.”
Joseph Chung, who had multiple disabilities, including autism and epilepsy, passed away in September 2012 at 32 years old, after suffering a seizure while he was swimming – one of his favourite activities.
“To have a child who experiences epilepsy, it feels like you have no control,” Joseph’s father, Dr. Peter Chung stated in the release. “No way of making things better for them.
“Joseph would have multiple grand mal seizures during the night and all we could do is make sure that he didn’t injure himself. You feel helpless.”
The donation is far from the first by the philanthropic couple, who have presented numerous scholarships to students in the their son’s name since his death and, in December 2019, gave a gift of $1 million to the Surrey Memorial Hospital Children’s Health Centre campaign.
In December 2012, a few months after Joseph died, his family announced they would open a Burnaby coffee shop called Joe’s Table, where they planned to provide employment opportunities to people with developmental disabilities.
Joseph’s family describe him as a gentle, happy person who was able to light up a room. Despite the challenges placed before him, Joseph graduated from Semiahmoo Secondary School and he was an avid swimmer, with a dream of participating in the Special Olympics.
“For our family the most important thing is faith in God and contributing back to society. Through Joseph, I got to be more compassionate to people who are different to who I am and who are less fortunate,” said Peter.
“With this gift, we really hope to provide the opportunity to develop better treatments so other parents do not have to experience the same helplessness that we did.”
VGH is the provincial centre for the neurosciences. Patients with the most complex conditions from across British Columbia are referred to VGH to be assessed for a vast range of neurological conditions, from stroke to epilepsy to brain tumours.
Epilepsy care and research is part of VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation’s Brain Breakthroughs campaign. Learn more at vghfoundation.ca/brain