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Hans Koehle thanks St. Joe’s with a gift 60 years later

St. Joe’s helped Hans Koehle when he broke his neck diving into the shallow waters of Lake Ontario 60 years ago. At the time, he couldn’t afford the hospital bill.

Hans Koehle
Hans Koehle
Hans Koehle

A Story 60 Years in the Making

Hans Koehle will never forget the generosity shown to him at St. Joseph’s Health Centre 60 years ago. It was the summer of 1958 in the wee hours of the morning, and Koehle was with friends celebrating the end of a regatta by the Toronto Sailing and Canoe Club. In a moment of bravado, everything changed.

“A young woman dropped an earring into the water and, without thinking, I dove in to retrieve it for her. Little did I know the water was only three feet deep,” he says. “I remember floating face down under the dock and not being able to move until thankfully someone jumped in to get me.

Koehle was resuscitated on the dock and rushed to St. Joe’s. He suffered a broken neck and was diagnosed with temporary paralysis. He spent weeks in a full-body cast that he describes as having only tiny holes for his eyes and mouth.

“I was concerned because I couldn’t cover my hospital expense. This was before OHIP,” recalls Koehle.“  Dr. MacDonald, the surgeon who treated me, let me go home without paying.”

A Lasting Legacy

Fast-forward 60 years to the $11.6 million donation from Koehle – a donation that will revolutionize end-of-life care by creating the Lake House Palliative Care Centre. Inspired by the look and feel of a Muskoka or Lake Simcoe cottage, this warm environment with sweeping views of Lake Ontario, is part of an effort to honour the personalized needs of each patient and their families in the last days of their journey together.

Before his wife Audree died in 2015, she expressed a wish to support other patients and families who would have to go through the emotional process of seeking palliative care.

“Audree received exceptional care at St. Joe’s but felt there was always more that could be done to support palliative patients and their families at their most difficult time,” says Koehle.

The Lake House Palliative Care Centre is now under construction and will open in about one year. This dedicated centre will have 15,000 square feet, 10 private rooms and other cottage-inspired family spaces like The Great Room.

There will also be an outpatient clinic. “Lake House’s outpatient services will empower patients to stay in their own homes for as long as possible. It provides them with choice,” says Dr. Graham Berlyne, medical director for St. Joseph’s Medicine and Seniors Care program.

“Audree loved to look out the windows here at St. Joe’s to see the panoramic views of Lake Ontario. Her wish was for other patients to enjoy this view. Her wish will be granted,” says Maria Dyck, President and CEO of the Foundation.

“The Lake House Palliative Care Centre will reflect its name in the design and décor. Additional funds from Koehle’s donation will be allocated for other critical priorities at St. Joseph’s.

“We’re celebrating one of the largest donations in our history,” says Dyck. “A family that received life altering care at St. Joe’s is now leaving a tremendous legacy to ensure our neighbours receive caring end-of-life support.”

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