Rae Kung is proud of her cochlear implants. In fact, she specifically chose an earpiece colour that would stand out against her skin and hair.
It wasn’t always that way, though. When Rae began to lose her hearing at age 22, eventually going deaf in her left ear, she felt uneasy about surgery and embedding medical technology in her head.
That all changed in the fall of 2020 when sound swiftly began to fade in Rae’s right ear as well. Within the span of a few days, the world went silent.
Rae immediately knew where she should go: the Teck Emergency Centre at St. Paul’s Hospital. After a referral to the Audiology Clinic at St. Paul’s, doctors determined that Rae had lost all hearing in both ears.
“It was like the end of the world to me,” she remembers.
Rae’s medical team scheduled her first cochlear implant surgery for March 2021, in her right ear (a second would follow later for her left). She’ll never forget the day when doctors switched the implant on, and her world resumed.
“I was so grateful, I cried,” she says.
A passion for giving back
Rae wasn’t the least bit surprised to receive kind, compassionate, and efficient care from the staff at St. Paul’s. As the managing director of the Chinese Restaurant Awards, Rae has partnered with St. Paul’s Foundation since 2015 to help put on Scotiabank Feast of Fortune, a philanthropic celebration of the Lunar New Year.
Feast of Fortune is a memorable night of entertaining performances, delectable dishes from Vancouver’s top Chinese chefs, a one-of-a-kind live auction, and community. Each year, Rae invites the city’s foremost, award-winning culinary talents to take guests on a distinctive tasting journey.
For Rae, uniting with St. Paul’s Foundation to nurture awareness about critical health research and quality patient care is one of her favourite events of the year, and she’s honoured to help raise funds. With Rae’s support, the event has raised more than $12.2 million since 2015.
“The gala meant a lot to me from the very beginning,” she says. “I think it’s very important that more people in the restaurant community come to support a great cause, and we are so happy to be a part of shaping that wonderful experience for donors.”
Rae will stop at almost nothing to give back. During the height of the pandemic, when the in-person event took a hiatus, Rae helped the Foundation put on a virtual Feast for Fortune. Local restaurants donated a portion of the proceeds from takeout orders and specialty food products to the Foundation, raising funds at a very difficult time for the restaurant industry.
Understanding the true value of patient-centred care
Rae is a direct beneficiary of the world-class research and advancements happening at St. Paul’s. The very first cochlear implant surgery in Canada was performed at St. Paul’s in the early 1980s. Since then, the St. Paul’s team has continued to modernize care for people with cochlear implants, introducing virtual services in 2020 to further help those with hearing loss.
The new St. Paul’s Clinical Support and Research Centre on the Jim Pattison Medical Campus (CSRC) is poised to support a health innovation ecosystem, with compassion and social justice at its core. And this building is so much more than bricks and mortar: by leveraging leading-edge technology and collaborative research efforts, the CSRC is set to develop novel treatments at an unprecedented pace, offering hope to patients in need – like Rae – faster than ever before.
After more than two decades of hearing loss, Rae’s second cochlear implant in 2022 was even more transformative than the first.
“It was magical. My hearing problems are all gone. I want people to know that I have them [cochlear implants], and that they are amazing technology that supports my life,” she says. “My confidence is back. Hearing loss is not just about being able to hear. It’s about quality of life. I can communicate with friends, I can speak more accurately and pronounce words. I have a new life now.”
The cochlear implants have also increased Rae’s ability to give back to her community through Feast of Fortune. With complete hearing, large events aren’t stressful. She can have engaged, meaningful conversations with guests – and tell them how important it is to raise funds for excellent patient care, research, and trailblazing technologies.
“I realized the miracle of this on me, and I want a lot more people to know about how important it is for us to have a good health system that’s been supported by us,” she says.
Gearing up for the 2024 Feast of Fortune
As the 2024 Feast of Fortune gala approaches, Rae is keeping her fingers crossed that they’ll beat last year’s fundraising tally (a record-breaking $3.58 million). More than anything, she looks forward to providing an exceptional event and uniting once again with the Foundation to work toward the greater good.
“It’s a collective effort from everyone,” she says. “This charity gala is the most beautiful thing, because everyone has a good heart and gets together for one goal.”
To learn more about Scotiabank Feast of Fortune and the CSRC, click the link below.