Ray’s story

Young volunteer gives back after successful surgery at St. Mary’s 

Photo of St. Mary's volunteer Ray Huang greets surgical patients and makes them feel at ease

At the age of 21, Ray Huang knows what it is like to have a frightening medical problem – and to finally overcome it so he can pursue his goals in life. 

One of those goals is volunteering in a hospital – something he finally felt healthy enough to do at St. Mary’s General Hospital after undergoing successful surgery here in November 2009 to treat a problem that caused his left lung to collapse three times in three years. 

Ray suffered from spontaneous pneumothorax, a condition which occurs due to the rupture of a small cyst known as a bleb on the lung surface. The rupture causes air to leak into the cavity around the lung, forcing the lung to collapse.  Local doctors see five-to-10 cases a year. They are generally minor, but occasionally turn life threatening if the rupture releases so much air that the heart and major blood vessels are compressed.

Ray’s symptoms began with a nagging tightness in his chest. At the campus health clinic, an x-ray showed his lung was 15 per cent collapsed. 

He was referred to St. Mary’s, the newly-designated Level One Regional Centre for Thoracic Surgery where Dr. Kilmurry performed an operation designed to get him back on his feet. 

His gentle and caring approach was welcomed by the patients. He told them what to expect leading up to their procedures.

Ray, whose goal is to become a family physician, spent five days recovering on the 6th floor and when recovered, Ray was able to refocus on his goals. 

As a volunteer at St. Mary’s, he had “a significant impact on the lives of our patients,” says Jan Merli, recently-retired Director of Volunteer Resources. 

“He knew what it was like to be a patient,” she says. “His gentle and caring approach was welcomed by the patients. He told them what to expect leading up to their procedures.”

Ray also volunteered for the Lung Association and organized a fundraiser at his school to buy books for children with asthma. Through the association, he donated the books to St. Mary’s and Grand River hospitals. 

He found it fulfilling to interact with staff and patients as a volunteer at St. Mary’s and now plans two years of missionary service with his church.

“I feel I can get on with my life now,” says Ray.

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