Tragically Joseph Chung passed away aged at just 32-years-old after undergoing complications following a seizure while swimming—one of his favourite pastimes. Joseph suffered from multiple disabilities including autism and epilepsy. His parents, Drs. Peter and Stephanie Chung, are honouring the memory of their first-born son by donating to support epilepsy fellows at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) to provide hope for future patients and their families.
“To have a child who experiences epilepsy, it feels like you have no control,” says Dr. Peter Chung. “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.”
While his life was short, Joseph will be fondly remembered for all the joy he brought to the world. Joseph’s family describes him as a gentle, happy person who was able to light up a room. Despite difficult 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 from who I am and who are less fortunate,” says Dr. Peter Chung.
The Chung’s $250,000 gift to VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation will support the recruitment of epilepsy program fellows at VGH. 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.
“This generous gift will have a long-lasting impact on epilepsy research and care in B.C.,” says Dr. Yahya Aghakhani, Director, Epilepsy Program, VGH. “By investing in our fellowship program, the Chung family is 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.”
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.
“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,” says Dr. Peter Chung.
Epilepsy care and research is part of VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation’s Brain Breakthroughs campaign.