“Life-changing” means different things for different people and experiences.

Often, we go through life with expectations based on our own unique assumptions informed by our prior life experiences with the future yet unknown.

But what happens when the unknown arrives, challenging us to a possible breaking point because it is a situation that is so foreign?

Meet Kathy – a renowned painter from Seoul, Korea with a Masters in Western Painting who has lived here in Victoria since the early 2000’s.

While still based in Korea, she lectured and taught at a Seoul university in their Fine Arts department. Meanwhile, her work in the Oriental style of painting began to take off in Canada with over 20 solo exhibitions from Toronto to Victoria. A number of her works belong to private collectors including the wife of the South Korean President.

Then life changed for Kathy. Having already lived in Canada with her husband Denis for several years, her aging parents and parents-in-law in Korea needed her to help them. So she spent a lot of time between Korea and Canada, devoting much of her life to care for others.

But then the unthinkable happened. Her husband Denis became ill in 2013. He needed a kidney transplant and was on dialysis here in Canada. She needed to be here full-time.

As a person whose first language is Korean, it was very difficult for Kathy – it was hard to be a caregiver and translate the medical information.

For illustration purposes only. An AI-generated image by Adobe Firefly of an older female adult of Korean heritage using a tablet; other portable tech devices nearby on the table include a laptop and smart phone.

For illustration purposes only. An AI-generated image by Adobe Firefly of an older female adult of Korean heritage using a tablet; other portable tech devices nearby on the table include a laptop and smart phone.

Kathy shared moments of the fear she experienced at the time, “Usually the kidney transplant age limit is seventy. A transplant couldn’t be done here in Victoria but in Vancouver. And Denis had problems and complications that did not allow the transplant.” She also shared moments of gratitude: “The doctor did not give up and did more tests. Suddenly the doctor told me to think about preparing a travel bag and then my husband was on the top of the list for surgery.”

It was a February evening when they got the call to go to Vancouver for the transplant. Lucky to get across from the Island because the weather was poor and very windy, they arrived just as the ferries closed.

The transplant was successful, but there were complications which kept Denis in hospital for over two months. Kathy did not know anyone in Vancouver. She prepared to be a full-time caregiver trying to understand the complicated world of medical terminology, prescriptions, and procedures as a person whose first language is not English.

Over the last five years, Kathy has attended programs at the James Bay Community Project for support. Most recently, she has been a regular participant in the Project’s Digital Dive-In Program, where another life-changing aspect of this story takes place.

Digital Dive-In is a program tailored to seniors who have questions about portable technology. This program offers seniors the opportunity to learn how to use a smart phone, tablet or laptop to improve their quality of life. In addition to group sessions, individual sessions are available for individuals who need a little extra help. Volunteers are also trained to support program participants.

Kathy said, “I want to work on my skills a little at a time and then I have confidence. I find that Jim the instructor is very patient. In the first year I learned how to use an iPad.” The following year she kept building up her digital literacy skills, just by coming to the program once or twice a month and meeting with her volunteer Jeanette once a week. Kathy then learned how to use her iPad and iPhone to translate from English to Korean – this made it much easier to read medical information on the internet as well as printed materials such as books, magazines and prescription info.

Denis is now recovered from the kidney transplant; however, he will face lifelong health issues. Kathy continues as his primary caregiver and is much more at ease now that she can use translation tools and technology to support his healthcare.

Kathy’s story is one of the many life-changing moments that happen at the James Bay Community Project. As the use of technology continues to grow in our world, this kind of support will be crucial for seniors to maintain their resiliency.

The Project is currently fundraising to be able to run the Digital Dive-In program again, as well as for its other essential programs and services. With your support, we can help more people experience life-changing moments to help them thrive. Our current giving opportunities include:

Learn more about other giving options by visiting our donation info page or get in touch directly:

Elissa Bergman, Fundraiser at James Bay Community Project

Phone: 250-388-7844, Ext 366

Email: fundraising@jbcp.bc.ca

Note: the names of Kathy and Denis are pseudonyms chosen by this program participant for privacy. We are grateful to her for sharing this story with us.