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V8N2 - SEPTEMBER 21, 2009:


Spotlight feature:

‘Father of Nephrology’

Did you ever wonder how doctors become doctors? Sometimes it’s a chosen destiny, sometimes it’s just fate with a little guidance from others. Dr. Ashley (Ash) Emeritus Thomson reflects back when he was contemplating his education. He aimed at studying Mathematics, but ended up studying Biology with French as a minor. Mathematics was not available, and it simply was not part of his path to becoming a doctor, although he did not know it was his destiny at the time. Biology was his ticket to furthering his education to becoming a nephrologist—kidney specialist.

Dr. Thomson has earned the reputation as being Manitoba’s “Father of Nephrology”. He pioneered the treatment and technology of hemodialysis—a method of mechanically filtering and cleansing the blood of patients suffering from short-term kidney failure due to shock from trauma, blood loss or infection. These patients were expected to recover from their kidney failure, but the trick was to sustain them during that recovery time. Dr. Thomson was called in to oversee the situation and that is where it all started. Since then, long-term dialysis, home/self-care dialysis—especially for northern Manitoba, and transplantation became possible.

Ash was born in Regina, Saskatchewan in 1921. His mother had a science degree and his father, a WWII veteran, was farming, and at the same time, acting as a Field Supervisor for the Soldier Settlement Board, settling British veterans into farming in Canada. This became the Veterans Land Act after WWll. Ash spent five years on their farm near Sintaluta (Cree for red fox) and attended grade school in Wolselely and then Assiniboia, Saskatchewan.

Ash’s father fought in the famous Passchendaele and Vimy Ridge battles and saw the devastation of WWI. A year before WWII erupted, he advised his son to get as much education as possible before enlisting. Ash attended Regina College for a year and passed with Biology under his belt. At the end of that term, a supervisor of the college suggested Ash enter the pre-med course in Saskatoon. So, while Ash became a pre-med student at the University of Saskatchewan, he watched several of his former classmates become soldiers.

After four years in pre-med here, Ash went to the University of Manitoba to complete his final two years of medicine to obtain his MD.

After his first year there, he ranked 20th in his class. He tied for first in his second year, taking the lead and graduating at the top of his class in 1945. He did post graduate surgery and later, research in vascular surgery.

He studied how different arms affected blood pressure readings. He didn’t have the specialized equipment to carry out his research, so he went to Philadelphia to learn about an intravascular pressure recording machine. Upon returning, with the help of a local machinist and an electrical engineer, he built his own blood pressure monitor. This study earned Dr. Thomson his Medical Degree.

In 1948, he obtained a National Research Council grant, tenable in New York or overseas. He chose Manchester, England, where a new medical contingent consisted of ex-WWll medical people who had served in the war. They were involved in a study of the role of sodium in the human responses to fighting in the tropics and the adaptations to changes in environmental temperature. He studied the effects of salt depletion and kidney function in those suffering from heat-related illnesses. These studies were reported to the British Research Council in London and it garnered interest from health professionals from all over the world.

After returning to Winnipeg, a couple years later, he began work in the U of M Department of Physiology, based in the Health Sciences Centre, teaching salt, water and renal function to med-students.

At this time, both major hospitals—St. Boniface and Health Sciences Centre—were just setting up intensive care centres. Patients not responding to initial therapy were frequently sent to Dr. Thomson, as he had the reputation as being ‘that guy in physiology who does salt, water and kidneys.” They felt if anybody could help these patients, he could.

Dr. Thomson was then hired to set up an Investigation Unit at Deer Lodge Centre for the Dept. of Veteran Affairs to treat mainly ICU patients with acute kidney (renal) failure. People with renal failure generally can survive for about a week on a high carbohydrate and fat diet with no protein or salt. With this ‘moose milk’ concoction, the body didn’t generate as many toxic bi-products and with the lack of salt, the body didn’t retain as much fluid.

Dr. Thomson knew there needed to be a better solution. He was aware of a Dutch researcher who successfully treated patients with a room-size dialysis machine. “They were already dialyzing in Montreal and the U.S.,” he says. The technology of dialysis was not new. It had been extensively studied in 1850, but was never tested on humans until the early forties. He decided to build one of his own. In 1954, with the help of a technician, they fashioned together some spare parts—a chrome-plated sterilizer, some copper tubing, a couple of washing machine motors and a cellophane membrane—and constructed Manitoba’s first ever dialysis machine. Positive results were immediate. Today, dialyzers are much smaller and with modern surgical procedures—artificial shunts and joining arteries to veins for needle access to blood supply—dialysis opened up to people with long-term or permanent renal failure. Before, blood vessels could not handle the prolonged use of needles. People generally dialyze three days a week and two large needles are inserted each time, causing scarring.

According to various sources, the first kidney transplant in the U.S. was performed in 1950. Anti-rejection medication (immunosuppressants) was not developed yet, so it was unsuccessful. In 1954, an attempt with identical twins was
successful as immunosuppressants were not required. This medication wasn’t introduced until 1964. Dr. Thomson organized a team including a tissue-type (blood match) specialist, Hildegarde Jaggi from Switzerland, a good surgeon, Alan Downs of Winnipeg, and other specialists, and they performed their first kidney transplant in 1969 at HSC with reasonable success. The success rate is 95-99% today, as technology and medicine continually improve. There are roughly 50 kidney transplants performed in Manitoba each year.

Dr. Thomson dedicated most of his career life helping to improve the lives of those suffering with kidney failure. As an educator and mentor, he proved to be valuable to medical students and graduate doctors, as well. He retired in 1984 but remains active, keeping up on the latest medical technologies and treatments. He makes regular rounds at the hospitals with his long-time friend and first dialysis patient from 35 years ago, Joe Kollar, on a voluntary basis. He likes to confer with doctors and staff who, often, still press him for advice.

Anyone who knows Dr. Thomson will tell you he cared about his patients as human beings, not just as medical challenges. “He was very technically minded, yet he was compassionate and would listen to your ideas and even those of his patients,” attests Pat Hill, a dietician who worked with Dr. Thomson since 1963. “His staff would walk through fire for him,” she adds.

Joe Kollar remembers his early days of dialyzing 35 years ago under the direction of Dr. Thomson. “He would bring exercise bicycles for the patients at the dialysis unit. And, he would organize picnics and Christmas parties for patients and their
families, with the help of Pat Hill and other staff members,” Joe fondly recalls. Dr. Thomson fought for, and was instrumental in setting up, home self-care dialysis for his patients. Joe was one of the first to take advantage of this and he is forever grateful, as it allowed him to have much more
control of his life.

Ash managed a healthy balance with work and family, raising five daughters–two of which are adopted, and two sons with his wife, Muriel. They had married in 1956. Murial had a degree in Arts and Science. She was very artistic and many of her creations permanently decorate the family home, although she has since passed away. Ash was good with his hands and used them to build small wooden toys for boys. He also built small sailboats that would hold three or four people.
He obtained the plans from Great Britain and it was said the boats could withstand the waters of the English Channel. The family often went to their cottage in the Kenora area to sail them, and to go canoeing. Ash had also played some hockey during university and later golfed with colleagues.

Ash joined an organization called People to People International (PTPI). It was founded by Dwight Eisenhower after his term as U.S. President. The purpose of PTPI is “to enhance international understanding and friendship through educational, cultural and humanitarian activities involving the exchange of ideas and experiences directly among peoples of different countries and diverse cultures.” Lawyers, doctors and other professionals joined and shared their professional experiences. In return, they got to travel and make new friends worldwide. On Ash’s time off work, he and Muriel would travel to places like Beijing, China, Europe, South Africa, and Moscow, on these one to two-month excursions. Once, they were on their way to visit the famous Tiananmen Square, but were turned away. It wasn’t until months later that they learned it was because of the infamous riot in 1989.

Thank you, Dr. Thomson, on behalf of all the people you have helped in Manitoba and around the world. You have impacted so many lives. n

(Read more in the Sept. 21/09 issue of Senior Scope)


Email Scams
by Cst. Ben Doiron
Winnipeg RCMP, Commercial Crime Section

Every day Canadians receive unsolicited emails from scam artists attempting to lure them out of their hard earned money.
The message may state that they’ve won the Lottery, are the Beneficiary of a large sum of money, or have been chosen for a lucrative Business opportunity involving the use of their bank account. The recipient may even be asked to provide financial support to a complete stranger from a foreign country who requires life saving medical care. In these cases the signs of fraud are everywhere, but what if you receive a message from an email address you recognize such as that of a close friend?

Culprits send out phishing emails (creation of replica email messages designed to appear as legitimate messages from reputable institutions) to thousands of random email addresses in the hopes the recipient will reply. Phishing emails often ask the recipient to provide personal
information including email address passwords. Once a reply is received they now have the email address and associated password. With this information they will access your account, including your address book, and after changing your password will send messages to all your contacts impersonating you.

The following is a real example of a message sent by a scammer from a victim’s email account:


How are you doing?hope all is well i am sorry that i didn't inform you about my traveling to England for a Seminar.I need a favor from you as soon as you recieve this e-mail because i misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel where my money is and other valuable things were kept, i will like you to assist me with a loan urgently. I will be needing the sum of $2,500 to sort-out my hotel bills and get myself back home. I will appreciate whatever you can afford to help me with, i'll pay you back as soon as i return. Kindly let me know if you can be of help? so that i can send you the details.

Your reply will be greatly appreciated

Before replying to such an email you should verify through other means of communication whether your friend is in England. If your email account becomes high jacked you should contact your Internet Service Provider, or the company you’ve created your account under and advise them of the situation. You may also report to Phonebusters at 1-888-495-8501.

For more information visit or

(Read more in the Sept. 21/09 issue of Senior Scope)


Gifted Dragon Ladies
Draggin' Down the Red

The Gifted Dragon Ladies

Gifted Dragon Ladies in second... for now!

The Gifted Dragon Ladies, an all-women team of mainly HSC (transplant dept.) staff and transplant recipients, compete
in the FMG Dragon Boat Festival at The Forks in Winnipeg, Sept. 11-13th.

The festival helps to raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society and helps Transplant Manitoba showcase what Organ & Tissue Donations can mean to so many in need. "Life, pass it on!" was the theme for our t-shirt back crests. Kelly Goodman, kidney recipient of nearly 23 years and publisher of Senior Scope, would like to stress the importance of signing a donor card and discussing your wishes with your family. You can download a donor card at

(Read more in the Sept. 21/09 issue of Senior Scope)



William J. Thomas

I Am Not Aging.
I’m Accumulating Longevity Status

It’s around this time of year, with everything dying—flowers, leaves, even the weeds—that I start to feel old. But I can’t. I’m not allowed to. I’m a Baby Boomer. We are not aging. We are gaining life-enhancing longevity status.

Now that we dispensed with phrases like “old age homes,” “nursing havens” and “lodges for the elderly,” we’re about to come up with a new and more euphemistic name for such
institutions—“Maturity Spas.” Huh? Sounds great doesn’t it? Makes you want to strap an outboard motor on the walker so you can get there faster! Those places heavy on recreation will be called “Carpet Bowlaramas”

So I turned sixty-two and like all Baby Boomers I’m fighting age as vigorously as we once fought authority. When the government gives us ‘death with dignity’ laws and makes hemlock available over the counter, only then will the boomers go gently into that dark night.

So I’m denying my age as best I can. I’d sooner starve than dine at an “early bird special.” I’d rather pay six bucks for a bucket of popcorn rather than ask for the senior citizen’s discount on a movie ticket. And don’t get me started on coupons.

But there comes a time when all willful deniers are forced to cut bait or fish and let me be very clear. I will not accept a “20% off Live Minnows Special” for senior citizens or order the Early Bird Fish Fry if I have to produce my Social Insurance Number.

My seminal moment came at a typical greasy spoon diner where I stopped for a bowl of soup at lunch. Like the best of the booth eateries, this was decked out in checkered table tops and tacky humour.

Over the clock, of course: “Our clock can never be stolen. Our employees are always watching it.” And above the kitchen door: “Eat here and diet home.”

So I have my bowl of soup, beef barley, which I ordered with extra crackers and it was very good. At the cash register, as I’m paying my bill, I ask for a bottle of water and two oatmeal cookies to go.

The waitress is young, bored and obviously laboring in a place well below her station in life. I’m sure she’s an actress waiting tables but what she’s really waiting for is the big break.

Like some day Lorne Michaels will walk into this joint because somebody in New York told him about the liver and onions that are to die for and Rita here will don a red wig and throw herself straight into Lucille Ball’s Vitameatavegamin routine.
In the meantime, she’ll pass her time picking up a paycheck by cracking gum and jokes at the same time.

“That’ll be $6.25, sir.”

I used to enjoy being called a “sir” but ever since I turned 60, I resent it. I was sure she was being sarcastic. Oh yeah, she said “sir” but she meant “old sport.”

From my money clip, I peeled off a five dollar bill. From the same pocket I fished out a loonie. Six dollars. No more. I was twenty-five cents short.

I looked at the little cup of pennies next to the cash register. “Take A Penny. Leave A Penny.” I wondered what the waitress would do if I took twenty-five pennies and left the rest as a tip.

“I thought I had enough money,” I said. “I usually only have soup.”

“Yeah, but there’s the water and cookies,” she said, holding up the bag. “Not to mention the extra crackers.”

“Okay, why don’t I leave the water and . . . .”

“I already rang it in,” she said, now tapping her foot to the rhythm of her snapping gum.

“Maybe the next time I . . . .”

“Maybe you want the Senior Citizens’ Discount. It’s twenty percent off.”

Then she hit a couple buttons on the cash register and said: “That would make it $5.95. You got enough for that.”

I wondered if she was being nice, offering me a discount to get me out of my cash shortage problem or she just pegged me at sixty years of age.

I had change in the car but did I really want to walk all the way across the parking lot and back for a lousy quarter?

“Yes, that discount thing will work,” I said, putting down the five and the loonie and reaching for the bag with the bottle of water and two cookies.

She pulled the bag back, just out of my reach. “I’ll need some I.D.,” she said.

Now it was personal.

I couldn’t say I had no identification, she’d seen all my credit cards when I opened my money clip.

“Ah, okay. Driver’s license do?”

She took the license and loud enough for everybody in the joint to hear she said: “October 18, 1946.”

She popped the till and tossed a nickel on the counter, next to which she place my takeout bag.

“Just as I thought,” she said.

I snapped. “So you knew all along I was a senior citizen.”

“No, Libra,” she said. “Forgetful.”

I grabbed my bag just as she said: “Would you like to join our Early Bird Eaters Club? They get all kinds of discounts.”

That’s when I also grabbed the nickel.

And left.

As a Baby Boom age denier, I’d been outed by a spiked-hair, twenty-something waitress with enough rings and studs to rig up a clothesline.

Unless I stay out of diners with wise-ass waitresses, tomorrow will be the first day of the rest of my strife.

William Thomas is the author of nine books of humour including Margaret and Me about his wee Irish mother.

(Read more in the Sept. 21/09 issue of Senior Scope)


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Senior Scope
Publisher: Kelly Goodman
Phone: 204-467-9000
Box 1806 Stonewall
Manitoba, Canada
R0C 2Z0