A picture is worth a thousand words and one image from the 1999 Okanagan Falls Wine Tasting Tour epitomized Mike’s compassion and zest for life - cross-eyed, eye ball to eye ball with the yellow-jacket at the distal end of his beer glass. Nary a drop was wasted and the wasp escaped inebriated and unscathed.
With uncanny foreshadowing Mike began his life adventure in Toronto on July 4, 1946. It is noteworthy that his father was a renowned anesthetist and his mother a registered nurse. He spent his formative years on Georgian Bay and from early on was a sports fanatic, playing hockey and had a passion for speed, especially motorcycles and aircraft.
During his maturation, a small portion of his otherwise brilliant mind arrested in a state of eternal youthfulness - a rarely described medical condition known as the Peter Pan Syndrome. This personality trait dovetailed perfectly with his future career.
He obtained his medical degree from the University of Toronto in 1971, followed by an anesthesiology residency at UBC. It was here in 1976 he first encountered Connie Kraai, a staunch Iowan and registered nurse in the Open Heart Unit at VGH Willow Chest. Mike received additional training in pediatric anesthesiology at Sick Children’s in Toronto before returning to join the staff of BC Children’s Hospital where he practiced pediatric cardiac anesthesia.
Romance smouldered for the next five years before cupid recalibrated his bow sight. With true Smith panache, Mike married Connie twice in one year - symbolically in May 1981 in lofty Machu Picchu (by the son of a rabbi), and then legally in Toronto in August 1981. The arrival of Megan and Colin completed their family by 1983. For the next 26 years their lives were inseparable. Mike was the perfect parental model and was idolized by his children. He shared with them his passion for recreational and sporting activities, including sailing, kayaking, polar bear swims, camping and skiing. During this time many weekends were dedicated to the Whistler Volunteer Ski Patrol.
Throughout his life, Mike always craved the need for speed. In his early years if he wasn’t racing sailboats it was motorcycles. At age 50 he succumbed to the dreaded aviation virus and never truly recovered. After the high of solo flight he progressed to obtain his private licence followed by his ultimate goal - a float endorsement on Shawnigan Lake. Sailboats and motorcycles almost became pastimes of a bygone era. He was never more animated than when describing his aviation escapades.
Mike always yearned for adventure and the exotic. He was a consummate raconteur, master of magic and was renowned for his schizophrenic neck ties and head gear. Life was never dull!
On one occasion at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club Garden Bay Outstation he managed to step backward into the ocean after cleating the family runabout - in full view of restaurant patrons. After rescue and donated clothing, unscathed he joined the audience for dinner.
On another he was introduced to the reality of Canada Dry - the victim of an overnight ebbing tide and a dragged anchor on a Gulf Island family sailing expedition. The next day was spent visiting island inhabitants as the flooding tide refloated the undamaged vessel.
One afternoon while cleaning the bottom of their tropical aquarium Mike was distracted by an exciting football play on TV and accidentally contacted the spines of their pet lion fish with his nondominant left hand. The results were instantaneous and dramatic. He was not hospitalized and the pain gradually abated but it was months before the edema resolved. It was testimony to his dedication that he did not miss a day in the O.R.!
In his youth Mike excelled at all sports, especially hockey. In recent years he resurrected his stick, helmet and cup to join his Children’s Hospital colleagues as a right winger on the infamous Pedi-Hatricks. He will always be remembered for the renowned Smith Goal of 2005 in the Vernon Medical Hockey Tournament. As a tribute to his contribution and dedication his teammates will retire his #20 jersey for permanent display in Children’s Hospital.
Mike was a Clinical Associate Professor of Anesthesiology at the University of British Columbia. He was a gifted mentor and in 1991 received the UBC Master Teacher Award.
Early on the morning of September 19, 2007, Mike experienced a cardiac event. Despite resuscitative attempts by Connie and paramedics he could not be convinced to stay - it was time to start the next adventure. His ashes and spirit will always permeate the nooks and crannies of the Sunshine Coast facing Malaspina Strait and Texada Island. Life is a bitch when you run out of altitude and runway at 61 - but few have crammed in so much living in such a short span! His premature departure leaves with heavy heart his family, colleagues, friends and never forgotten by the seven surviving Musketeers - Connie, Mike and Larry, John and Tessa, Jack and Ruth.
This side and especially Children’s Hospital Anesthetic Pit north of the sterile surgical field will never be the same without his mercurial smile, rapier wit and heartfelt - “Gosh it’s good to see ya!”
John Albrecht, M.D.