Dr Fred Ceresney was born during the Roaring Twenties, graduated from the University of Toronto, and served in the Canadian armed forces as a medical officer before setting up family practice in Langley.
He was attracted to the area by his military compatriot Dr George Neilson, who was the founder of the original Fort Langley practice, where I now work. Fred served his patients in this same area for over 50 years. He saw Langley grow from a small rural agricultural community to the bustling suburban community it is today.
Medical practice in those days was varied, interesting, and fulfilling—the very definition of a patient-centred service. Fred and his colleagues perfected this model years ago, providing availability and services around the clock to their patients.
“Full service” doesn’t begin to describe it. According to Ina, Fred’s wife of 61 years—who answered the phone 24/7 in addition to caring for 10 children—the average day would end with 10 to 15 house calls. This was often followed by an overnight on-call for the hospital. More often than not she would wake to find the space beside her in the bed empty and cold—Fred would be up at emergency, or in the OR, or in the maternity ward. This was the nature of practice in those days. Fred relished in it, working late into his life, always on top of things, on time, and enthusiastic.
Fred was also a patient of mine, and of our group practice in Fort Langley, for many years. Providing care to a fellow physician is a great privilege, but can also be a great challenge as they may prefer to direct their own care. They may bristle at the reversal of roles. They may be demanding. Or noncompliant. But Fred was none of these things—in fact, it was a remarkable and mutually shared journey. Yes, Fred was the patient (technically), and I was the physician (technically). But, somehow, together, in a spirit of cooperation and teamwork, we navigated the treacherous waters of his declining health in late middle life, and the rapids of his failing health in old age. And, as the list of ailments and diagnoses grew, as was inevitable, so did Fred’s equanimity and acceptance. He was indefatigably cheerful, always polite, always considerate.
Every encounter ended with the gentle incantation: “Thank you, and God bless.” His demeanor reminded me of the saying, “The true measure of a man is not to be found when the going is easy. Real character emerges when adversity strikes.”
Fred Ceresney was such a man—honorable in his personal life, compassionate and humane in his dealings with people from all walks of life, ethical in his profession, and finally, courageous and graceful in the face of terminal failure and death. His life, and his living of it, is an inspiration to us all, as physicians and as human beings.
—Alister F. Frayne, MD
Adapted from remarks given at the Langley Division of Family Practice AGM, 26 September 2018.
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