Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Legacy Left Behind - Dr. K.P. Wong

I had planned to write the next in my series about the recent Leading the North conference today, but as the saying goes ‘life is what happens when you are making other plans’ – and yesterday life took another one of those turns when a legend in our community passed away.

Dr. K.P. Wong is a name you heard often in this region, particularly if you or any of your friends were of baby-making age. Anyone who lived here for any length of time doesn’t need his role in our community explained, but for those of my readers who do not I will only say that he was a local obstetrician and gynecologist who touched thousands of lives during his decades-long career. It has been estimated that during that career he delivered about 20,000 babies, welcoming an astonishing number of new human beings to this world.

Since the news of his death hit social media yesterday the reaction has been nothing short of amazing. Reading the Facebook page dedicated to his memory is like taking a trip down memory lane with the thousands of people he touched during his life. Almost every person I know in this community had a connection with Dr. Wong, as patient or employee or friend or colleague – and often all of the above.
We live in a time when I think we are a bit confused about what constitutes a hero. We idolize rock stars and actors. We look to those who are loud and out in front of the cameras as role models, but the reality is that heroism hides in strange places. Sometimes you find heroes in little offices and delivery rooms. Sometimes you find true heroes in those who make jokes about pregnant women not eating too much ice cream to avoid having big babies, and in someone who comforts those who struggle to have a baby at all. Sometimes you find heroes in quiet, unassuming people who work in the background just doing their job – but it’s a job that impacts thousands of people and touches generations down the line.

The outpouring of stories and memories and sympathy can truly only be described as one thing. It is love, love flowing from the members of this community to a doctor who delivered babies, performed surgeries, delivered good news and bad and who helped people during one of the most difficult, most amazing, and most profound experiences they will ever have – childbirth.
Dr. Wong was not my physician, but in some ways I feel like he was because his personality and warmth flow through the stories others tell of him. That he touched thousands of lives is unquestionable, and he will never be forgotten. Suggestions on how to memorialize him for his incredible contributions to this community and the people in it have been flowing just as the stories, and so many amazing suggestions have been made. For me, I would like the province to name part of the hospital in his memory, perhaps the maternity ward, so that he will always be honoured in the place where he introduced thousands of babies to the world.

I think, though, that municipally we can do something else to honour Dr. Wong. I would very much like to see a park and playground dedicated to children constructed in his honour and named after him. I think a park like this, designed to be inclusive of children with special needs, would be a fine tribute to a man who left a phenomenal legacy in the 20,000 children he welcomed to the world.
In my mind’s eye I see a park filled with children, shouting voices and laughter, and dozens of happy and smiling parents. I see families together, which is such a huge part of what this kind and heroic man did. He helped people to create families, and under his care thousands of babies entered this world, babies who have now gone on to have babies of their own. The legacy left behind will continue for centuries, long after any maternity ward or park has closed.

And perhaps that is the true and most fitting tribute to Dr. K.P. Wong, physician, family man, community member and hero – thousands and thousands of people who will owe him their lives for generations to come, and who may never know his name but who will have a history touched by his caring hands. And that is an incredible legacy indeed.

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