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Marie Jose Overweel joined Robert Taberner and his wife, Sheila, to donate a combined $1-million to Credit Valley Hospital for robotic equipment that enables minimally invasive surgery.

Michelle Siu for The Globe and Mail/michelle siu The Globe and Mail

The Donors: Robert and Sheila Taberner and Marie José Overweel

The Gift: $1-million

The Cause: Credit Valley Hospital Foundation in Mississauga, Ont.

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The Reason: To finance a surgical robotics program

When doctors told Robert Taberner he had prostate cancer in 2005, he immediately began looking into different kinds of treatments. The Ontario resident, 54 at the time, discovered that a hospital in Detroit did robotic surgery, which wasn't available at most Canadian hospitals at the time.

Robotic surgery is more precise than regular surgery and far less intrusive, resulting in less blood loss, minimal scarring and a lower risk for complications. He went to Detroit for the surgery and was impressed by the results.

"It was really quite spectacular," he recalled from his home in Mississauga. The surgery took a few hours and Mr. Taberner was back on his feet the same day. He returned to work a couple of weeks later and suffered no side effects.

That was a far cry from some of his friends who also had prostate cancer. They had traditional surgery in Canada and spent five days in the hospital and up to a month recovering, with many suffering painful side effects.

Mr. Taberner told his doctor at Credit Valley Hospital about the robotic surgery and asked: "Why don't we have one of those here? This community needs one."

That discussion set off a fundraising drive for the equipment that sparked the interest of Marie José Overweel, a long-time donor to the hospital whose husband, Jan, died of prostate cancer. She jumped at the opportunity to contribute. "I wanted to get the robot as soon as possible," she said from her home in Mississauga.

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Together, Mr. Taberner, his wife Sheila and Ms. Overweel donated $1-million to the robotic surgery campaign, which the hospital hopes will raise $6-million. "I love to give and I'm lucky I can give," said Ms. Overweel, a cancer survivor who has contributed nearly $2-million to the hospital in total.

"We're all really excited," added Mr. Taberner, who is retired from the steel services business. "This will make a real difference in our community."



pwaldie@globeandmail.com

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