January 16, 2024

Emergency Surgery an Eye-Opening Experience for Local Restaurant Owner

A torn retina almost cost Tej Pal his vision – an outcome that would have put the longtime Hamilton chef’s career on the backburner.

Fortunately for Tej, owner of Himalya Restaurant – a near-institution in the city for Indian cuisine – emergency surgery at the Hamilton Regional Eye Institute at St. Joe’s in April 2022 restored his vision.

Today, while his sight in one eye isn’t as sharp as it used to be, Tej’s knife skills still are. Not only has a successful retinal re-attachment procedure allowed the 71-year-old to continue to keep watch on the family business he founded in 1996, it’s enabled him to get back into the kitchen, preparing some of Hamilton’s finest Punjabi-style vegetarian food.

“Technically, he’s retired,” laughs the restaurant’s manager and Tej’s daughter, Simranjit Barda. “But he’s still at the restaurant overseeing everything, and always gets the final word on a dish. And, if he’s in the mood to, he’s still in the kitchen cooking.”

To show their gratitude for the care Tej received at St. Joe’s, the restaurant has donated $20,000 to the Foundation to support the Eye Institute. The generous boost in funding is being used to advance research into eye health, as well as the treatment and prevention of visual disorders, many of which can lead to blindness if left untreated.

The restaurant’s gift to St. Joe’s comes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time that devastated many local businesses, most notably those in the hospitality sector. Simranjit says her family’s restaurant was fortunate to come out on the other side with support from a loyal customer base and the government, which prompted a desire to give back.

“The prospect of losing his vision was very scary for my father, and for the family,” she says. “My father has always been a hard-working and generous man. He immigrated from India and has lived in Hamilton for forty years and he’s at a stage in his life where he is able to make this donation.”

“We’re just so grateful to the staff at St. Joe’s and to everyone who cared for him,” she adds. “We’re also grateful to live in a country where healthcare is universal, but know the Hospital could always use extra funding for items, like new equipment and research, to improve care in the community we’re proud to call home.”

This story was originally published in our 2022-23 Donor Impact Report. Click here to read the full report and discover other inspiring stories from our supporters.

Photo above: Tej, centre, with his son and daughter in front of the Himalya Restaurant.

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