Dennis Karpiak, a well-known Kamloops cardiologist and champion of causes, has died.
Karpiak died of complications from a lengthy illness on Saturday, Feb. 23, surrounded by his family. He was 75.
His son, Andrew Karpiak, said that all things considered, the family is holding up well.
“We had the ability to spend the last 24 hours at his bedside. He wasn’t conscious, per se, but we were able to be there with him and I don’t think a lot of people get that opportunity,” he said.
Andrew said that at his dad’s request, only family will attend any service or ceremony held.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made on behalf of the Karpiak family to the Royal Inland Hospital Foundation by calling 250-314-2325 or by going online to rihfoundation.ca.
Karpiak was also an advocate for organ transplant and encouraged others to register as organ donors, himself having benefited from a liver transplant years ago.
“That prolonged his life by about 15 years,” his son told KTW.
Karpiak served as the Interior board representative for the B.C. Medical Association and was an outspoken advocate for Kamloops when it came to opportunities for the city, including the long-waged battle for a cancer clinic in Kamloops, which ended up in Kelowna despite his efforts.
Andrew said that his father also played a big part in bringing the respiratory health program to Thompson Rivers University.
Karpiak also took an active role in the fight against the proposed Ajax mine, teaming up with
Ken Blawatt, a retired Thompson Rivers University business professor, to co-author a 35-page report that cited detrimental effects if the mine south of Aberdeen was approved.
The project was ultimately rejected by senior levels of government.
“When he felt strongly about something, he was always there to fight,” Andrew said.
RIH Foundation CEO Heidi Coleman recalled how Karpiak helped with a James Bond-themed fundraiser it held one year.
“He was amazing. He lent us his Aston Martin — one of his prized sports cars. We were going to put up these velvet ropes up around so no one would touch it and he said, ‘Absolutely not,’ and encouraged people to sit in the car and look inside,” Coleman said.
In 1989, Karpiak received a Medal of Bravery from the Governor General of Canada.
The medal was for his actions at the Tod Mountain (now known as Sun Peaks) ski area in 1986, when a girl in the chair ahead of him was left hanging by her broken arm after it was caught in the seat’s safety bar.
Knowing she wouldn’t be able to hang on for much longer, and that she might not survive the eight-metre fall, Karpiak jumped from his own chair and hiked to a spot where he could get underneath her to break her fall.
He did break her fall and, in doing so, was briefly knocked unconscious, but saved the girl from serious injury.
Andrew said the family is still considering how they might honour the man.
“My dad obviously lived and breathed that hospital, so for us it’s likely to be something about giving back to the medical system in the city,” he said. “I’m not sure yet.”