Updated 27 Oct 2015

Robert Palmer's autobiography - 07

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Robert Palmer's autobiography 2005-2014

| Chapter 25 (2005-2008) |
Chapter 26 (2009-2012) |
Chapter 27 (2013-2015) |
special photos

Chapter 25

2005 to 2008

age 61-64


    Continued from 1999

    In January 2005 Valerie and I went to Cyprus again.

    In March 2005 Valerie, Susannah and myself went to the Vermont chalet (see photo 172).

    In May 2005 Valerie and I went to an anaesthetic meeting in Vienna, where Dad had a bad recurrence of his rheumatic fever in the winter of 1945 and 1946 and came back a dying man, and which ultimately killed him 11 years later at the age of just 51.

    Also in 2005 Susannah passed her anaesthetic primary first time (she had been working in Bath) and then went to join David Lewis in Christchurch NZ and worked in the anaesthetic department there. They lived in Sumner which is on the coast south of Christchurch.

    Youngest Daughter graduated from Brighton in social anthropology and international development in the summer of 2005 (see photo 173). She had done some of this course in Southampton. She had a boy friend, James Bullock, and had started going out with him in 2004. After graduation she worked as a health care assistant at St Richards, Chichester. She then worked for a time with children with behavioural difficulties, and then a job with Sussex County Council as an assistant social worker for young carers.
    172 Chalet in Vermont
    173 Youngest Daughter graduation

    In 2005 I went to John Sirs funeral in Buckinghamshire (swimming and mountaineering club at St Marys). He was 79.

    Brian Maugham sadly died on 3rd March 2006. Meanwhile I was playing bridge regularly with Sandy MacKenzie who is from Massachusetts and lives in Fareham, and golf at Furzely with Angela Sissons. On 12th April 2006 Morgan was born at Christchurch NZ hospital, a vaginal birth, (see photo 176 of him when Sue and Dave came over that summer).
    176 Wesley, James, RJP, Dave
    Sue, Carla, Morgan, Youngest Daughter, Valerie
    177 Wesley and Carla's wedding.
    On 14th May 2006 I tore my calf muscle while playing tennis. I hobbled to work and several days later Valerie and I had a canal holiday in Wales and I spent a lot of it lying down. In June 2006 Valerie and I went to an anaesthetic meeting in Madrid. We went to Victoria Pearce’s marriage in June 2006, and our next door neighbour Gwen Stanford died in October 2006. Malcolm West was over for the new year and we took our house master Ian Higgens out to lunch in Droxford. In January 2007 I went to Sumner, NZ for three weeks (see photo 179 of me with Morgan). On 30th June 2007 Carla and Wesley were married (see photo 177), and a week later on 7th July 2007 Yougest Daughter and James were married (see also their photo 178). The 40th anniversary of graduation reunion for my year at St Mary’s was held in Richmond in September 2007.
    178 Youngest Daughter and James' wedding
    179 Morgan and RJP in New Zealand

    In early 2008 Valerie and I had a holiday in Cusop Dingle, Herefordshire. I had been tasked with writing a report on an orthopaedic list where there were three total joint replacements and two of the three patients died of an M.I. in the early postoperative period. I took it seriously and spoke to a cardiologist. The problem was that the two patients that died had had a preop ECG which showed marked ischaemic changes, but no one had looked at the ECG’s. I was put in a difficult position and I am afraid I chickened out somewhat on my decision that you can’t put the clock back, but I did make changes in reporting on preop ECG’s. Meanwhile I won a doubles tournament at the tennis club (see me 181 with trophy with Chris Wilkinson British Davis cup player on my left).

    Also I went up to Scotland where Carla did a marathon (see photo 182).

    In November 2008 I went to Christchurch again for a whole month. I swam every morning in the open air pool in Sumner, and cycled and played bridge. Morgan was christened while I was out there.
    181 Wilkinson Cup
    182 Carla in Marathon

Chapter 26

2009 to 2012

age 65-68


    On January 9th 2009 Joshua was born (normal delivery). See his photo 183 (though this was probably taken a year or two after he was born).
    183 Morgan and Joshua
    I was fit for swimming (my frozen shoulder had finally cleared up), and I trained hard, primarily for the 200 backstroke which is the only distance and stroke I am really competitive in. I was in the bottom of my new age group 70 to 74. My goal was the long course GB championships in June 2009 in Cardiff and the short course GB championship in October 2009 in Sheffield. In fact I came second to David Langley in Cardiff (perversely I won the 50 breast stroke, but the competition by chance was non existent). In Sheffield I did a personal best in the 200 back and beat David Langley by four tenths of a second. Tony Cherrington who was faster than both of us had not entered the event (saving himself for the freestyle). I was wearing a lower body suit (body suits were outlawed at the beginning of 2010). Sadly David Langley died of a brain tumour about two years later and was probably not at his best. He had a grand mal seizure in the Welsh meet in the spring of 2010 and decided against chemotherapy as I understand as the prognosis was very poor. It is ironic that Charles Parker who kept me out of the Hampshire team for some 13 years (he was faster than me in the 50 back) should also have died from cerebral pathology (a cerebral abscess I was told). Nevertheless that win along with being selected for the British Universities water polo team in 1968 I consider my life’s greatest achievements (better than qualifying in medicine) and have given me my biggest thrill.

    The summer of 2009 Haslar and St Mary’s were closed. All our work thereafter was at QA hospital. I turned 65 in July and normally that meant retirement. I had an audience in the late spring with the CD Matthew Turner and Elisabeth and asked if I could be allowed to stay on. Matthew said I would need to start drawing my pension which I did. They said they could give me a 6 month short term contract, at the end of which there was the possibility of an extension. In fact it was extended several times and I was allowed to go on working until my 70th birthday.

    In January 2010 I went to Christchurch for a month. While I was there I visited Nutty and Graeme in Auckland and went to a swim meet in Katikati. Meanwhile Carla and Wesley were in Malawi (from 2008 to 2010), where Carla was doing some physio in Blantyre and Wesley worked for the microloan foundation in Blantyre and Johannesburg.

    I gave the talk at Jane Watt Smith’s leaving do in March of 2010.

    In April 2010 I organised a Memorial Service for John Brenchley and Tony Evans (and John Etches) to mark the 50th anniversary of their deaths (see below). See photo of 184 2nd April 2010 at Taplow, remembrance service
    184 Remembrance Service at Taplow 2apr2010.
    "The Memories section of the Old Masonians Gazette closes, however, with a look back at what was reported in 1960, the year of a most tragic event. We also report on a service of remembrance which was held on 2 April 2010 to honour the three boys who perished. OMs will recall the letter from Bob Palmer which was printed on page 12 of the 2009 issue of the Gazette and which expressed his wish to show his respects to the three boys and to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their deaths. The text of the report from The Masonian (1960) is reproduced on p132. Also, Old Boys might be interested to know that A History of the Royal Masonic School Vol. 2, p153, reports: "Mourning was deep, and endured for a considerable time. Despite the tragedy Snowdonia continued to be used for expeditions, but stringent safety precautions, tight organisation and careful briefing ensured that further accidents were avoided."
    From The Masonian Vol. 19 No. 9 July 1960 SCHOOL NOTES John Michael Brenchley Tony Evans It was with deep sorrow that the School received the news of the tragic accident on Snowdon on 2nd April, 1960, which resulted in the death of these two boys during the School's leadership course run under the auspices of the Cadet Corps. With them was also lost John Etches of the Royal Wanstead School. It is boys of special promise and ability who are selected for these courses and therefore our loss is a loss of our best. The heartfelt sympathy of us all goes out to the relations and friends of the three boys in their tragic bereavement. A special memorial service for Brenchley and Evans was held in the School Chapel on Saturday, 30th April [1960]. The fine spirit of adventure encouraged by these courses must not be diminished by this unfortunate accident. These boys had a fine spirit which should be emulated by the rest. Robert Palmer, who instigated the remembrance service, writes: On Friday 2 April 2010, a service of remembrance was held at the private chapel of David Long (Headmasters 1965) and Shirley Long at Amerden House, Taplow to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the deaths in Snowdonia on the Beddgelert Scheme of John Etches (Royal Wanstead School) and Tony Evans (Headmasters) and John Brenchley (Burwood). Present were Mike Blamey (Derby 1959), David Long and Shirley, Ian McIntyre (Derby 1961) and Joan, Robert Palmer (Derby 1962) and Valerie, Tony Tilly (Lea's 1963) and Carol, Malcolm West (Derby 1962). Also present was David and Shirley's son, Cloudsley. Others would have liked to have attended but were unable to do so and gave their apologies: Ray Casbon (Headmasters 1962), Jeremy Davenport (Keyser 1963), Richard Fawkes (Derby 1962), Gordon Metcalfe (Staff), Roger Puddephatt (Connaught 1961), Malcolm Read (Devon 1960), Bob Skillicorn (Lea's 1963), Peter Sutcliffe (Staff), Stephen Thomas (Connaught 1961). Sadly, Brian Ridgeway (Headmasters 1960) who was on the front rope passed away, in Australia, a number of years ago; see 2002 Gazette, page 134. The service probably coincided with the time of death of the three boys, starting at 1145 and finishing at 1220. Afterwards, David and Shirley Long and their son very kindly treated those present to an excellent lunch. (L2R) : Carol Tilly, Malcolm West, Valerie and Robert Palmer, Tony Tilly, Mike Blamey, Shirley and David Long, Ian and Joan McIntyre Outside the Chapel - Tony Tilly, Mike Blamey, Ian McIntyre, Malcolm West, Robert Palmer, David Long, Editor's Note: The photos on this spread were taken by Tony Tilly. The report and the photo on the previous page were supplied by Robert Palmer. My thanks go to both for so speedily providing copy so that this last minute news could be included in the 2010 issue of the Gazette. Inside the Chapel - Tony Tilly, Ian McIntyre, David Long, Robert Palmer, Mike Blamey, Malcolm West .See Tragedy on Snowdon section of www.bearmead.co.uk with photographs.
    I started beekeeping again and joined the Petersfield beekeeping association.

    Youngest Daughter had earned a masters in social work in 2009 and was working for social services in Chichester, Bognor Regis and Worthing.

    In October 2010 I won the 200 backstroke again in the short course nationals in Sheffield. I was also a member of the mens 280 plus 4 by 200 metres freestyle relay team that set a new European and GB record. (see photo 190).

    Valerie and I joined the Victory Services Club in London.

    In late 2010 I developed polymyalgia rheumatica. The thing that really worried me was when I had to get Valerie to pull me out of the bath. I saw Fiona MacRae privately and indeed I had a high ESR and CRP and she confirmed the diagnosis. She said it might be due to the finasteride I was taking for my prostasism. She prescribed prednisolone but I refused to take it. I stopped the finasteride and by late spring 2011 it had cleared up.

    Meanwhile at work I was still doing maternity. The politically incorrect expression of the maternity unit at Portsmouth is “NFP” or normal for Portsmouth. When we went to obstetric anaesthesia meetings at Salisbury, Dorchester, Winchester etc they had no insight into the problems we faced in Portsmouth (see QA maternity unit attached).
    185 Obesity at QA
    186 Mucous plug.
    Meanwhile I had 3 near misses in the final 3 years of my anaesthetic career. The first was an elderly man having back surgery in the prone position by Jason Harvey. The endotracheal tube completely blocked with inpissated infected mucus (see attachment). Sean Kerr was in the next theatre and helped me roll the patient over on to his back and reintubate.

    The second case was a urological procedure under Steve Keoghane who had a full blown anaphylaxis from atracurium. I had plenty of help from Nick Barnes, Anu Bali, Matthew Wood etc but he developed severe bronchospasm and was very difficult to ventilate. I feared the worst but after two and a half hours of resuscitation the bronchospasm broke and he went home 24 hours later.

    The third case was the worst and was at Spire. It was a morbidly obese middle aged man on his side who had had a massive regurgitation, was a grade 3 intubation and navy blue. My first attempt at intubation with a bougie failed but fortunately for everyone my second attempt was successful and we carried on with the operation. I offered some prayers of thanks.

    Meanwhile I was ribbed about my age (see photo 187, a letter from Ignatz Semmelweis dated 1847 confirming we had met, this I made after Rhys Lewis, a trainee had said during a presentation that I had met him).
    187 Semmelweiss
    I enjoyed this sort of good natured repartee, but I certainly did not enjoy it when earlier David Desgrand tried to get me to retire at 65, and we never really renewed our friendship after that. Likewise Peter Heath, who I had never got along with, tried to ease me out of the private group (unsuccessfully) and that worsened our relationship. I used to carry my European and GB swimming record with me so if there was a serious remark my riposte would be to show them the certificate and enquire whether they were fit to carry on (though a lot younger).
    190 European record
    191 Rockfall in Sumner
    Meanwhile I had a new bridge partner at Emsworth, Rosemary O’Brien, and I played at Purbrook with Sandy McKenzie.

    On 15/2/2011 Eloise was born in Christchurch, NZ. (see photo 188 of her at 8 months). When she was a week old the big aftershock hit Sumner and the house was a write off. Fortunately it was not built of bricks and there were no serious injuries. Susannah and Eloise were in the upstairs bathroom, and Morgan and Joshua downstairs in their bedrooms and only had minor bruising. (see photo 191) On 19/2/2011 Maeve was born at St Richards, Chichester (see photo 189 at her 1st birthday party). Valerie went over to NZ in March 2011 to help Susannah where they had moved to Ashburton.
    189 Maeve at 1 year
    188 Eloise 8 months
    In August 2011 Malcolm West, Ray Wicks, Peter Hofman and myself had a get together at Datchet. Later in 2011 Valerie and I had a holiday near Dorchester. In late 2011 Sharon Holland asked me to do a history of Portsmouth anaesthetic department. I wasn’t working full time and I jumped at the opportunity. For the next eighteen months and beyond I was preoccupied with this task. I started by interviewing Don MacDougall, and subsequently was in touch with many former and present members of the department (Chris Linton, John Moon, Gary Smith, Anne Thornberry etc). Brother John did an enormous amount of work putting it on to my website. In April 2012 Valerie and I had a holiday in Whitchurch Canonicorum, and in the summer of 2012 I had a get together at Wisley with Geoff Talbot and John Fox (see photo 192). In July 2012 I did the Otter half mile at Henley (see photo 193). In September 2012 I won two tennis finals at the tennis club, one with Mike Hope and one with Sue Palmer. Later in September we had the 45th reunion of graduation with my year at St Mary’s Hospital. On 21/11/2012 Juniper was born at St Richard’s Hospital, Chichester (see attached photos of her taken in 2013, one by herself (Photo 194 and one with her mother 195). Valerie and I had another holiday in late 2012, this time in Norfolk.
    192 Summer 2012. Geoff Talbot, RJP, John Fox
    193 Henley 2012
    194 Juniper
    195 Youngest Daughter and Juniper

Chapter 27

2013 to 2015

age 69-71


    In early 2013 I think Malcolm, who had been complaining of a sore right shoulder, was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma and started treatment. In February 2013 Valerie and I had a holiday in Madeira. On 15/3/2013 we had the opening of the QA anaesthetic museum (see photos 196 of the four intensivists, from left to right Peter McQuillan, Bruce Taylor, Gordon Craig and Gary Smith, and of John, Valerie and myself 197). The museum was named after Alex Larson, and his three children came to the opening. Other developments in 2013 were my joining the Dorset cycling network so I could go on bike rides while staying in the hut, and the starting up of the U3a in Rowlands Castle, I joined the history, cycling, astronomy and poetry groups). Matthew Wood our CD saw me in June 2013 and said the hospital were retiring the “retirees.” I was to get three months notice and would finish at the end of September 2013. I said I was grateful I had been kept on so long. Two weeks later he approached me again and asked if I would like a zero hours contract from October 1st 2013 until my 70th birthday. I said yes please. I didn’t bill for any of the NHS sessions I did on my zero hours contract, but was able to stay in the private group, with only one dissenter (Peter Heath). In July 2013 I gave a talk on the history of Portsmouth Anaesthetic Department at The History of Anaesthesia Society meeting in Kendal. In September 2013 I won my last tennis trophy at the village tennis club, the over 60 mens doubles with Gerry Ashton, my tenth title. Osteoarthritis (principally left knee and subsequently back) precluded me from being competitive any more. In November 2013 Valerie and I had a holiday at Lower Knapp farm in Devon.
    196 Intensivists
    197 Opening of Museum 15 Mar 2013
    Susannah was given a six month unpaid attachment working two days a week in the QA anaesthetic department. Kathy Torlot overheard me talking to Debbie Marsh about Sue and asked if she could help. It led to Sue’s appointment as a permanent specialty doctor in anaesthetics at QA Portsmouth. Kathy deserved most of the thanks, but Elisabeth King and John Burden also helped a lot. In the spring of 2014 Valerie and I went to Beddgelert for a St Mary’s Mountaineering club reunion. In June 2014 I went to the UK long course championships in Swansea and got a silver in all three backstroke events. I retired on my 70th birthday and had a retirement party which Sharon Holland kindly arranged, and Nick Barnes gave a valedictory speech (see photos 198 and 199). Shortly after I was contacted by the hospital who said they were thinking of putting me up for an award (I suppose OBE or the like). There was a lot of paperwork involved, and I didn’t really think I qualified so I declined the offer. Meanwhile there was a difference of opinion with our next door neighbours over their intention to build an extension to their house which would have been on top of and looming over our swimming pool. When they would not compromise I had to go to the Parish Council meeting to make my point. I won and the new garage had to be moved in the plans to nearer the road, but sadly it soured our relations with them, particularly Anne Webber. In October 2014 I won the 200 backstroke in the short course nationals in Sheffield. The training and effort was getting harder. Not long after and a few days after swimming for Hampshire in the county championships I hurt my back lifting a bag of green waste at the tip and have developed dysesthesia and neuropathy originating from the L2 L3 disc space (I had an MRI scan), and getting on for a year later no real improvement. Wilbur was born at home 30 minutes into the New Year of 2015 (see photo 201). In the spring of 2015 Eloise and Joshua were christened (see photo 200). In April 2015 I withdrew the first instalment of my USA IRA pension. Unfortunately it triggered a response from the recipient bank in the UK (HSBC) and the result was hours and hours of work and not inconsiderable expense in backfiling USA IRS returns and FBARs under the streamlined amnesty program which is ongoing at the time of writing (August 12th 2015). On a happier note Susannah was married in Elsted on 25th July 2015 to Mark Roland (see photos 202, 203). They are living at the top of Rowlands Castle. Mark is chief of medicine at QA, and very good with Sue’s three kids. His younger son George had a nasty head injury in late 2014 but made a miraculous recovery, with thanks due to the Southampton paediatric and neuro units. So I have now been retired for over a year. Unfortunately osteoarthritis (principally my back, but also both knees particularly the left knee) has put a damper on things. However with anno domini it is what is to be expected. Valerie has been a tower of strength all these 40 plus years.
    198 Retirement
    199 Retirement
    200 Christening
    201 Joon, Youngest Daughter, James and Wilbur
    202 Mark and Sue
    203 Mark & Sue's wedding - James-Youngest Daughter-Valerie-Mark-Sue-Robert-Carla-Wesley

    The final instalment.

    Closing Balance
    Dear Bob,
    I have finally checked everything out and am pleased to say that your Closing Balance for Year End March 2015 stands at Ł4362, so not insignificant. I have asked Alison to arrange payment to you asap. I'm sorry it has taken me so long to sort this.
    Thanks for all the hardwork on behalf of PAG over the many years and for going well beyond the call of duty. We miss you. Please enjoy the final payment it is well deserved (and hard earned!).
    I hope life is treating you well and you continue to enjoy your retirement. Pop in and see us sometime. I need cheering up after the Rugby World Cup.
    Best wishes

    (Nomination for a National Honour, I declined to be nominated).
    Dear Bob,
    The CSC has been asked to identify individuals for a Nomination for an Honour. Matt, Phil and I wondered if you would be willing to be nominated for your commitments to your longstanding work for PHT and your dept. If you accept we would want to ensure the nomination form had all the correct detail so we would ask that you complete some of the form yourself (i.e. the section of address, time at certain roles and the detail of the charity arrangements you have made to date). We know that you have undertaken a lot of projects and would not want to "sell you short" in the nomination so any additional information you can give for our completion would be welcomed; the more detail you can give us the better we can make our citations. The "Further Guidance Letter" summarises the detail we may need. The guidance also says "What makes a good nomination? - You need to describe what is special about your candidate's achievements and show memorably and persuasively how they have made a difference. The weakest nominations are those which read a bit like CVs or job descriptions. The best are those which demonstrate the impact the individual has made, showing how they have overcome obstacles or gone the extra mile. See if you can provide clear examples to show how they are head and shoulders above their peers or a role model to others, often serving over a number of years". If you are not happy to be nominated (as some people aren't), please just let me know. Deadline for completion to Liz Malo is Friday 5th September as we must have it finalised by the CSC Team to submit to Ursula Ward by the 8th Sept.
    Kind regards,

Conceived, written and copyright © 2014, Robert PALMER, All Rights Reserved.

Compiled, formatted, hyperlinked, and hand-coded 2014 by John PALMER, .