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Wednesday January 16, 2013

Lindsay Catherine Burns

Public health inspector, loving friend, godmother and auntie, hero. Born May 16, 1976, in North York, Ont., died Aug. 25, 2012, in Mississauga from complications due to cystinosis, aged 36

'Scrappy" was Lindsay's nickname. A whole lot of fighter in a small package is what she was.

Born with cystinosis, a rare disease affecting her kidneys and stature, she was originally not expected to live beyond 16. But thanks to high-quality health care and a never-give-up attitude, Lindsay didn't just survive into her mid-30s - she found many ways to thrive.

When she was 16, she received a transplanted kidney and named it Jonny B. Good. With Jonny, she graduated high school, earned a professional degree and became a public health inspector.

She was a "tough cookie" who didn't suffer fools easily, her supervisors recall. If non-compliant operators (as they say in the business) failed to take her seriously, either because of her youth or her size, they soon learned their mistake. In addition to a strong sense of right and wrong, she had a sharp tongue and a dry wit.

Realizing that her sun would set sooner than others', Lindsay filled her youth with fun and friendship. At university, she was a brightly painted frosh leader as well as a student of hula dancing, step aerobics and boxercise. She never missed a chance to travel, dance or socialize.

But what is most remarkable about Lindsay is not what she did, but who she was: the qualities she exemplified while making her mark on the world.

Though Lindsay had many reasons to complain, she didn't. When cystinosis took Jonny, her eyesight and then her lower left leg, she focused on what was possible, not what she had lost.

She read using a tablet, magnifying the text to read a word at a time. When that was painful, she listened to audio books and dance tunes, especially Lady Gaga. To stay mobile, Lindsay worked hard in physiotherapy.

Her last big outing before her second leg amputation was a winter geocaching hunt. Getting as close to the action as she could in her wheelchair, she shouted suggestions about where to find the tiny cache, then cheered with us when it was found.

Lindsay made friends easily, from her octogenarian buddy in the dialysis ward to the many children for whom she was Auntie Linds. She gained energy from her friends' presence. If we woke her up with a badly timed visit or call and promised to speak just a few minutes, she would keep us talking for an hour.

Most memorably, Lindsay had an uncontrollable giggle. Though she had a talent for sarcasm, she tended toward self-deprecation. Lindsay once warned her goddaughter never to smoke lest she remain short like her. While partying as an undergraduate, she would chant "No sleep till breakfast!" Beastie-Boys-style. And when anyone got frustrated with life, she saw humour. She'd laugh and laugh, until we couldn't help but laugh too.

Love, loyalty and laughter - these were Lindsay's gifts. She never thought she was a hero. But to all who knew her, she most definitely was.

Kevin Black is Lindsay's friend.

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