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Courage To Come Back: Medical recipient shines light on unsung heroes

Last Updated Apr 3, 2016 at 10:47 am PDT


Tom Teranishi has put in a lifetime of service to others

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – He has never let his health get in the way of helping others.

NEWS 1130‘s series of Courage To Come Back profiles begins with a look at the recipient in the Medical category.

Tom Teranishi was born in 1942 in a Japanese Internment Camp. “When the Second World War broke out, all the Japanese-Canadians, as you know, were interned from the coast,” he explains. “My parents used to live in Steveston and we were interned to a place called Minto, near Bralorne.”

Tom has dealt with health challenges his whole life. “I was born with a condition called nystagmus, which is called ‘dancing pupils’ because I couldn’t keep my pupils in focus.”

That led to him learning to walk a little later than other kids.

“I would just crash into things, you know, like furniture and stuff, because I didn’t see them,” he recalls.

It turns out, his visual impairment was the direct result of his chronic kidney disease. “In my late teens one of the doctors noticed that I had some symptoms related to kidney problems. My kidney problems I guess started at that time.”

“My first transplant was in 1984 and that one lasted 30 years, I was lucky. And then by 2013, I noticed that my kidney function was decreasing and the doctor, the kidney doctor, told me… your kidney is failing.”

However, that never stopped Tom from giving back to others. A social worker by trade, he actually got his start volunteering at the Vancouver Park Board.

“That was my initial job when I was about 18. You know, I felt that, well, you know, you got to do something. So, for people with developmental problems. So that’s where I started this whole thing,” he remembers.

Giving back is just something Tom has always done. “Because people have given to me so much during my life and I thought, well, I can help a little bit in giving back, that was my goal.”

To win the Courage To Come Back Award moves him in a way he didn’t think was possible. “I feel very lucky and fortunate. I feel very honoured and very humble,” he admits.

However, he’s always quick to shift the spotlight away from himself. “Many people out there are who I call the unsung heroes, who are struggling, who are really fighting hard to basically come back. And I know there are lots out there because as a professional social worker I met a lot of them.”

NEWS 1130 is a proud sponsor of the Coast Mental Health Courage To Come Back Awards, which will be handed out Thursday May 5th at the Vancouver Convention Centre.