Clarence Fernandes, a beloved Maple Ridge doctor who still did home visits, died suddenly on Monday, after calling in sick to work.
“He’s a doctor’s doctor, Clarence,” said his colleague, Dr. Godwin Obioha, a local gynecologist who worked closely with Fernandes, a family doctor who focussed on maternity and fertility.
Obioha said Fernandes had a thorough understanding of both the science and art of medicine.
“He still does home visits,” Obioha. “He talks to each patient like they’re the most special person in the world.”
He spoke about his friend in the present tense, and said the shocking loss does not yet seem real.
Suzie Franklin worked as a medical office assistant with Dr. Fernandes for 37 years – from the time he started in Maple Ridge. She said he covered an on-call shift at the hospital over the weekend, but then phoned in sick on Monday – which was unusual for him, but not unheard of.
By the afternoon, she learned via social media that the 64-year-old had passed away due to heart failure. Since then, she has been dealing with a steady stream of tearful patients.
“He was totally dedicated to his patients – they were his world,” she said. “And he loved delivering babies.”
Franklin said there are some families with four generations of patients at the practice, and Fernandes delivered two of them.
She added that Fernandes and his wife Vienna, a nurse, would often still be at the clinic on 227th Street at 8 p.m. in the evening.
“For 12 or even 16 hours a day he was involved with his patients or his practice. He was here for everyone.”
And he took on teaching resident physicians and nurse practitioners at a rate that saw him recognized for his work by UBC.
“It’s a very big loss to the community,” said Franklin.
As a boss, he was thoughtful and caring.
“In 37 years, I have never seen him angry,” she said.
Jennifer Jones was his patient for the past seven years, and said Fernandes diagnosed her with a life-threatening condition that other physicians had missed.
“He was an amazing doctor. He saved my life,” she said. “And my kids loved him. He was friendly with them, and took the time to listen to them, and explain why he was doing things.”
She said the loss hit her family hard.
“I was devastated,” said Jones. “There’s going to be a lot of people devastated – he was so trustworthy, and such a good doctor.”
Fernandes leaves behind three adult sons.
“He was full of life, strong and happy, and then this happened,” said Obioha.
He is offering to see Fernandes’ patients.
“The hole he leaves – I don’t know how it’s going to be filled.”