Children from Haverstock School’s young journalists interview Dr Oswald Fernando, Consultant Surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital.
Dr Oswald Fernando (Ossie) is extremely dedicated, with the focus of an eagle after a rabbit. He is also very resilient, courteous and sensitive about people’s feelings, as he told us:
Q: Can you recount any memorable organ donation episodes?
Dr Ossie: I got a call from a hospital in Basildon in Essex who had a man brought in after a brain haemorrhage. The hospitalwere certain he would not survive. So I took a nurse, an assistant, myself and all the instruments, but I still felt I had to talk to the donor family. Back then there were no kidney transplant coordinators. I will never forget this: the donor’s mother and father were there, and his wife; they had only been married two weeks … a tragedy. Subsequently I got in touch with the donor family and they were so kind and generous. They said, “At least we know that part of Paul is still alive.” I still remember it.
Q: How did you practise your surgical work on anyone before doing the first major operation?
Dr Ossie: Well, we didn’t have anybody to practise on! So when we were doing the first operation, it was a question of seeing how it worked and then continuing to refine the procedure.
Q: How did you get to be a surgeon?
Dr Ossie: I had biology as one of my subjects at school and had dissected animals: rats, frogs, earthworms and even the nervous system of the cockroach. Those experiments helped. I found that my hands worked well. When you do the first operation, clearly you are nervous; but you have a teacher with you, and he makes sure that you don’t do anything dangerous that harms the patient.
Q: Tell us about kidney rejection.
Dr Ossie: The first drugs we used had side-effects that were worse than the benefits of the operation. Then gradually we realised that we could reduce the dosage of the drugs. We now have new drugs that are much, much better; they still have side-effects but these are quite rare, and using someone who is well-matched means that you can use much smaller doses. It was a process of learning, and it has taken 20 to 30 years.
Dr Oswald Fernando’s enthusiasm laid the foundation for pioneering transplant work within the NHS at the Royal Free Hospital and the Hospital for Sick Children at Great Ormond Street. His son was so inspired that he is a kidney and liver transplant specialist too.
Thank you, Dr Ossie, for giving us these unique insights.
Interview: Shayann and Anisah, Year 9
Structuring and extra words: Atiasha and Emma, Year 7; Yusuf, Year 10; Shamarke, Year 11.