When Wynand Francois Louw and Colleen Maytham first came to Invermere in 2001, they planned to work in town for a year before heading back to South Africa.
The couple wanted an adventure in a faraway land. They wanted to ski, kayak, hike and camp, all the while exploring the valleys towering mountain ranges. They wanted to learn about a different culture while living in a town roughly 250 times smaller than those they had lived in previously.
Over the last 14 years, Drs. Louw and Maytham have experienced all of that and much, much more. They did not predict falling in love with Invermere and the people who make it such a special place for them. They did not predict having children and building a medical practice from scratch in town. In fact, they really did not predict staying so long, but are glad they did.
Now, after 14 years, it is time for the couple and their family to move on. They are heading to Kelowna on June 26th in pursuit of career and educational opportunities.
It has been an amazing experience, Dr. Maytham said. I feel that I learned more in the last 14 years than I did prior to that in South Africa.
In the midst of writing various medical exams to become fully certified in Canada, the two doctors each started their own practice at the Invermere Medical Clinic. Since then, they have seen some patients grow from children to adults and others grow from adults to seniors.
You really get to know families as a family physician, Dr. Maytham said. We have seen people have children, and their kids are teenagers now. It is very interesting to follow people on their lifes journey.
The couple has done just about everything medically during their time in the valley. In addition to their family practices, they have done emergency work and delivered babies. Their work has endeared them to the community they have served.
We were very well-received, Dr. Louw said. The people have become like family to us and we just want to convey our thanks to this welcoming community.
In 2006, Dr. Louw started Chisel Peak Medical Clinic along with a group of physicians. Over the years, the clinic has become a labour of love and something Dr. Louw is truly proud of.
From a business and financial perspective, it was not always easy, but everyone involved really stuck with it, Dr. Louw said. Now we have a six-doctor medical clinic in the Chisel Peak Medical Centre, and additional to this, excellent autonomous health businesses such as a pharmacy, hearing loss clinic and physiotherapy clinic, all under one roof.
Drs. Louw and Maytham will continue to own shares in Chisel Peak, and will keep pushing for the expansion and continued improvement of the clinic.
Outside of the office, the couple became fascinated with exploring the valleys natural scenery.
We love camping, so we bought a little camp trailer, Dr. Louw said. I grew up on a farm in South Africa, so I have always liked that sort of thing, except now I call the mountains in South Africa hills. The views here never get old.
Dr. Maytham said many of her favourite memories in the area were made surrounded by the natural amenities that first attracted her here in 2001.
It is just moments like being at Lake Lillian on my paddleboard when there is no one around and the sun is setting, Dr. Maytham said. That is hard to beat.
Like many people from all over the world who come to the valley, Dr. Louw became enthralled with skiing on some of the worlds best slopes. He fondly remembers working at his clinic in the morning and skiing in the afternoon.
Moving forward, the couple is excited for the adventures ahead in Kelowna. Professionally, the city offers many opportunities for Dr. Louw to do what he loves.
I wanted to focus more on emergency medicine and interventional pain, which are two of my core interests, as well as teaching, he said. I have been teaching some courses for UBC over the last five years and I really love it.
Dr. Louw will split his time between Kelowna General Hospital and the Okanagan Pain Clinic. Dr. Maytham will continue to work as a family physician. Kelowna also offers an important opportunity for the couples children.
Our kids are getting older, so they are going to be in university soon, Dr. Louw said. We wanted to move closer to a place where the kids could go to university while living in our house, so we dont have to send them away.
In the last 14 years, living 15,000 kilometres from where they grew up has not always been easy. From conversing mostly in English instead of Afrikaans and driving on the wrong side of the road to living in a town with only a few robots (the South African term for traffic lights), the adjustment was sometimes hard.
We want to thank everyone for making Invermere home for us, Dr. Louw said. There is a real sense of community here.
The couple plans to visit the valley on occasion to see friends and hike the trails they love so much.
Maybe we will experience Invermere the way the Calgarians do, Dr. Maytham joked.