Dr. Aubrey Goldstein, 1953 to 1998 to 2017

by Caroline Vanneste

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Dr. Aubrey Goldstein, 1953–2017, with his wife, author Caroline Vanneste. Photo: Howard Weingarden

Most people don’t get a second chance at life. My husband did. He was very lucky, or very unlucky. It all depends on your perspective.

Aubrey and I both moved to Ottawa in 1992 and met while working at Health Canada. We lived near each other in the Golden Triangle and starting walking home from work together. We discovered shared interests in travel, the outdoors, an active lifestyle and vegetarian meals on Elgin Street. And then, romance.

We started house hunting in 1995. We wanted to stay in the area but our real estate agent showed us a great house a little farther away. Did we want to live in the Glebe? We liked walking down the street to go out for dinner. How long would it take to walk back to our favourite restaurant on Elgin? We timed it, and decided it was manageable. And after we moved, we did walk to Fresco’s, once. We laughed at ourselves for years after for thinking that we’d want to leave the Glebe to go out for dinner.

Aubrey lived life to the fullest despite living with an autoimmune liver disease (Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, or PSC) since medical school. He worked as a chronic care physician at Bruyère Continuing Care in addition to his job assessing applications to conduct clinical trials in Canada. And he would often show up at the hospital in his cycling or rollerblading gear.

Unfortunately, Aubrey’s disease eventually progressed to the point where even walking to the bus stop was exhausting. He started doing his Health Canada work from home and gave up his on-call schedule at the hospital. But he never quit. He received the call we’d been waiting for in May 1998 while in hospital recovering from a near-fatal bleed. A liver transplant restored his health and his zest for life.

Aubrey was a life-long athlete and soon started competing in the Canadian and World Transplant Games. We travelled all across Canada and to Australia and South Africa to attend the games and promote organ donation awareness. Aubrey was fiercely competitive and brought home many medals in running, squash, tennis, cycling and golf. And he volunteered with the organizing body, becoming president of the Canadian Transplant Association.

We also started travelling throughout the U.S. to attend the annual conferences hosted by PSC Partners Seeking a Cure, a new organization that developed out of an online support group for PSC patients. This group immediately embraced Aubrey–literally! They were so grateful for all the support and advice he provided to so many. He became a member of their board of directors and their Scientific/Medical Advisory Committee.

As much as we loved travelling, we always loved coming home to the Glebe. We were married in 2002 in our backyard in front of a large group of family and friends. Then we all walked down the street for dinner at our new favourite restaurant, the New Delhi.

Sadly, Aubrey’s disease returned in his transplanted liver. For a long time it was mild but in early 2017 it became severe enough to put him back on the waiting list for another transplant. We then learned that he was eligible to receive a partial liver from a living donor and were overwhelmed by the number of people who offered to be tested. Aubrey was too sick to undergo surgery by the time a match was found and he died peacefully on October 8, 2017, surrounded by family and close friends from our transplant and PSC “families.”

There was no funeral. As per his wishes, we had a celebration of his life at the Glebe Community Centre. And what a celebration it was. The Glebe Neighbourhood Activities Group, Nicastro’s and many friends and neighbours generously assisted in making the evening truly special. And hundreds of people came to celebrate the life of a man who touched so many with his kindness and compassion.

National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week is April 22 to 29 this year. It’s the perfect time to learn more about organ donation and to speak with your family and close friends about your wishes. I hope you will consider registering at www.beadonor.ca. Aubrey received a second chance at life. Wouldn’t you like to give someone else that chance?

Caroline Vanneste has been a resident of the Glebe for almost half her life and served as president of the Glebe Community Association from 2009–2012.


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