March 13, 2024

Mother Makes Generous Gift to Say Thanks to St. Joe’s for Caring for her Daughter for 50 Years

Doris Lived a Beautiful Life Against All Odds

For nearly 50 years, Doris Stiller was a patient of the kidney care program at St. Joe’s. In that time, she underwent three major surgeries – two kidney transplants and a procedure to replace a valve in her heart.

She had her first kidney transplant at age 13. After a second transplant at 26, Doris prided herself in beating the odds – living with the same donor kidney for a remarkable 33 years!

And in the face of all the statistics that were stacked against her, never once did Doris complain about her lot in life, says her mother, Violet Stiller.

“Doris was a very strong person – even as a little girl,” adds Violet. “Never ever did she say, ‘Why me?’. She was a quiet child, and a bit of a partygoer as a teen. But as an adult, she was able to live a reasonably normal and beautiful life.”

“She worked and provided for herself, loved animals and music, and had hobbies, like skiing and playing golf. She was a loving sibling to her sister Lyane, and adored being an aunt to her two nieces, Nicki and Caleigh. I always say, ‘It was a privilege to know Doris.’”

‘A privilege to know Doris’

Dr. Christine Ribic is a nephrologist (kidney doctor) at St. Joe’s who cared for Doris for 12 years.

About Doris, Christine says, “She was such a special person. It didn’t seem to matter what hardships she was facing herself, she wanted others to be happy. You could be having the worst day, and Doris would enter the clinic and soon she’d have all the patients and staff laughing and smiling. Sometimes she’d bring in snacks because she knew it was a busy day and we might not get a chance to eat lunch – she was always so thoughtful. We’d start each visit with a hug and end it with a hug, too.”

Doris was born with one dysplastic kidney – a condition that affects about one in 4,300 babies in Canada. Infants with this condition are born with cysts on their kidney, causing the organ to have little to no function.

“Most people born with a dysplastic kidney go on to live healthy lives,” Dr. Ribic explains. “The issue for Doris was that her remaining kidney developed chronic nephritis, an infection that causes severe kidney damage. This gradually led to the loss of function in her other kidney, and a lifetime of kidney care at St. Joe’s.”

Doris Stiller, pictured here with her father.

‘A lifetime of kidney care’

While Doris suffered frequent colds as a child, Violet and her late husband, Bob Stiller, would not learn about their daughter’s serious health condition until she was 10 years-old, when Doris experienced dangerously high levels of potassium in her blood – a sign of chronic kidney disease.

That’s when she was referred to St. Joe’s under the care of the late Dr. Arthur Shimizu, a physician who is widely recognized for his pioneering work in advancing kidney care in the region.

Dr. Shimizu put Doris on peritoneal dialysis, a treatment that uses the lining in the abdomen to filter blood inside the body via a catheter that was placed in her belly. A year later, at age 11, she was given a fistula port in her arm so she could receive hemodialysis for the same purpose.

In the following years, Doris would often refer to the Hospital as her second home, and aptly so. It was the place where she would receive dialysis three times a week, sometimes during the night, before going to school or to work the next day. It was just like Doris to never let her health get in the way of living an active life full of purpose.

A gift to help others living with kidney disease

Just before Doris’ first transplant, she experienced a blood infection so severe, her family thought she wasn’t going to make it. In the end, Violet believes it was this experience that weakened Doris’ heart despite her strength of spirit.

Sadly, in 2021, Doris passed away from sudden heart failure. She was 59.

“Doris remained under the care of St. Joe’s until the day she died,” Violet says. “Without the Hospital, and the knowledge and dedication of people like Drs. Ribic and Shimizu, we would never have had Doris in our lives for as long as we did. For them, it’s never an eight-hour day on the job – it’s their life and passion to care for people.”

To honour Doris’ memory and to thank the Hospital for the care her daughter received for close to five decades, Violet made a generous donation to St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation, and will remember St. Joe’s with a gift in her Will after her passing. Dr. Ribic says the funding will be used to enhance the kidney care and transplant clinic at the Hospital.

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.

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