From Indian inspiration to Middlesex memories (and dodging Dorian)

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From Indian inspiration to Middlesex memories (and dodging Dorian)

Sorry, me again, but it has been an eventful week. From Hyderabad I flew overnight to London, and went, after a BA shower and breakfast, to attend a celebration of The Middlesex Hospital, at University College. I was on the staff of The Middlesex from 1973-1986 as a Consultant Physician (Internist in US speak) “with an interest in Gastroenterology”.  That meant I looked after strokes and pneumonias as well as treating dyspepsia and diarrhea, while nudging the frontiers of flexible endoscopy. Not sure whether to be proud or embarrassed that Peter Sellers died under my care, of a coronary, aged 54. I had difficulty consoling Spike Milligan.

The Middlesex Hospital on Mortimer St in its prime

I had been alerted (and accompanied) to the celebration by Dorcas Chapman, who ran my private office during my time in London. Thank you Dorc. She had married Malcolm, the Middlesex radiologist who helped me with ERCPs in the early 70s. She also kept the score at the cricket matches that I organized against GI groups at other hospitals. Despite her doing the scoring, and having Malcolm and another of our radiologists as umpires, I remember that we lost all of our matches.

Back to the meeting. I think this was the first time ex-Middlesex folks had reassembled after the hospital closed in 2005, after 170 years ( At least 1000 people turned up (more nurses than doctors), including a few from my era, and there were many happy noisy reunions. Speeches included one from Bernie Ribiero, who did some research with me while a surgical trainee. Bernie “dun good” as they say in England. He climbed the professional ladder quickly, became President of the Royal College of Surgeons, and is now Lord Baron Ribeiro, of Achimota in the Republic of Ghana and of Ovington in the County of Hampshire. While extolling the value of collaboration between the specialties, he showed a photo from the early 1980s, with imaging and interventional radiologists, a surgeon, and moi.

Bill Lees, Richard Mason and Chris Russell

Some wonder, even giggle, at the word Middlesex. Wikipedia explains “It means territory of the middle Saxons. The word is formed from the Old English, ‘middel’ and ‘Seaxe’ ( like Essex, Sussex and Wessex). In 704, it is recorded as Middleseaxon in an Anglo-Saxon chronicle. To add to the interest and confusion, there was (and is) a hospital called Central Middlesex, which is of course not in central London (like The Middlesex), but further west. Several overseas doctors coming to spend time with me ended up at the Central by mistake. That proved to be to their advantage because the chief there was a much more eminent gastro pioneer, Sir Francis Avery-Jones.

The hospital site has been redeveloped as luxury apartments, while preserving its iconic little chapel, now renamed “Fitzrovia chapel” (after the area of London). For gastroenterologists, note that, during the destruction, the chapel looked like a visible vessel in a large ulcer crater.

Preserving the chapel after demolishing the hospital

It is a little hidden now behind the tall buildings, but awesome inside. Take a look

I didn’t stay for the big dinner, but took the opportunity to visit overnight with daughter Nicky, and husband Jules, and was able to help celebrate Perdy’s 11th birthday and watch JP play football (soccer).

Then on the new BA flight direct to Charleston, just in time to evacuate immediately to avoid hurricane Dorian, which looked very unfriendly.

Happily, there was no major damage, and we are back on Dewees island, now watching the sun rise out of the ocean. It has been quite a week!

4 Responses

  1. Brucie Harry says:

    Loved vicariously experiencing your trip – so many big events.
    Sounds like wonderful reconnections with old colleagues and friends, and family. A Happy birthday with 11 year old Perdue and Jack’s game would make everyone happy. Glad you and Marion are safely back on Dewees.
    Thanks for the telling!

  2. Jurgen Rode says:

    Thank you very much Peter. Your letter and photos brought back precious memories of my times at the Middlesex. It is good to hear about Dorcas and Malcolm and recalling my first and only cricket match. My second daughter Madeleine was baptised in that little chapel over a fountain donated by Sir John Bland-Sutton, surgeon and founder-builder of the Bland-Sutton Institue with water from the Jordan River! I wish I could have been at that reunion.
    I am glad to hear you are safe after that cyclone.

  3. Thank you for your news, Peter. So sorry not to have been able to attend the re-union. Glad all’s well with you and the weather! We soldier on with many grand-parenting duties and plenty of writing, meetings, lectures and research into military medical affairs. We are looking forward to helping with a lecture cruise of the med. and a series of talks in Australia. I remember Avery well – I was his house physician. Best wishes to you and Marion, Mick and Elizabeth

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