Former patients of the namesake of our Institute, Professor Douglas Baird, who passed away in November 1995, tell of a caring and humble man without pretension but with great skill and expertise. As our Patron, the Honourable Michael Kirby, described him, “a very modest man, very unassuming, but very brilliant”.
In September, 1995 at 60 years of age, Professor Douglas Baird saved my life. I had surgery for six bypasses at the “Page Pavilion” at RPA where Chris O’Brien’s Lifehouse is located today.
In 1985, when I was 50 years old, I was driving to work when I started to feel very unwell. I was losing strength in my arms, feeling very cold and perspiring. I pulled over because I was quite breathless. After a short rest, I continued on my way to work. When I arrived at work, my boss said I looked very pale and suggested I go home. Instead, I drove to the GP which in hindsight was not a sensible thing. The GP did an ECG and then immediately called the ambulance to get me to hospital as soon as possible.
I was in RPA for around 3 weeks but although open heart surgery was suggested as the best option for me I chose to NOT go down the surgery path but instead I chose to follow the Pritikin diet – a low-calorie, low-protein, high-carbohydrate eating plan that recommends a fat intake as low as 10 percent of your daily calories. Developed in the 1970s by Nathan Pritikin, the program is designed to help lower your risk of heart disease. I followed this diet for close to 10 years and kept up a fitness program of walking and jogging during this period, even though my cardiologist felt I shouldn’t be doing these types of activities with a heart like mine.
In September 1995, after 10 years on the Pritikin diet, I was back in hospital at RPA. Testing by my cardiologist revealed that I had 6 blockages and no longer could avoid the need for open heart bypass surgery. The surgery was undertaken by Professor Baird and took many, many hours. I remember the tremendous pain post-surgery and having been connected up to so many tubes and wires. I was in hospital for around 2 weeks.
From Doug Baird’s surgery in 1995, jump forward 26 years to August, 2021 when I had another heart procedure – the insertion of a stent and a new valve. This time there was no need for my chest to be open, instead it was minimally invasive surgery.
Doug Baird was a very humble man who had a personality that the ordinary people could connect with. We talked like old acquaintances without any pretentions. Although the surgery he performed on me was more than 25 years ago, I remember him distinctly. I was very sad to hear that he passed away from cancer in that same year I had surgery. A surgeon at the top of his field gone too soon!