They have helped thousands of people and saved numerous lives but now best friends and colleagues Dr Harry Walmsley and surgeon George Evans have said goodbye to Eastbourne District General Hospital.
The pair have worked together for 23 years, with Harry – an anaesthetist and associate medical director for academic, education and research – working at the DGH for 27 years in total.
Yet retirement beckons for the two, with plans to travel, relax, take up photography and sail in the pipeline.
Harry decided to follow in his father’s footsteps, attending medical school at the Royal London in the 70s.
During this time he decided to focus on anaesthetics and intensive care, training as a junior doctor for ten years before taking up his post in Eastbourne in October 1988.
So why Eastbourne?
“My father’s advice to me was ‘go for a part of the country you like as that is going to change the least’,” Harry explains.
“The next most important thing was having all the services on site and the next was to get on with colleagues. All these three things appealed to me here.”
However, it was an accident the year before he accepted the Eastbourne job that made him evaluate what he wanted to focus on in the medical world.
“I had my right leg amputated as I had an accident in 1987,” Harry explains.
“I was a junior doctor at the time and following the accident had to spend time on ITU – three weeks – and five months in hospital. I needed 92 pints of blood.
“I felt I was lucky, so when Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) came into this country it was something dear to my heart and I wanted everybody trained to the highest standard.”
This led to him focusing on medical education, resuscitation and trauma management, sitting on numerous boards
Not only has he been the treasurer of the Resuscitation Council (UK) but also a member of its executive committee for ten years.
He is also currently the representative on the national Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) committee at the Royal College of Surgeons.
On top of this, for 14 years he was a clinical director/divisional director in East Sussex Health Care NHS Trust and is set to take over chairmanship of the Friends of the Eastbourne Hospital.
It is no wonder then that the father of three feels that now he has turned 60 it is time to ‘have a rest and see his family’.
“At 60 you are at your peak,” he says, going on to explain how he felt July 24 was the right time to leave, especially with the vascular surgery section moving out of Eastbourne and into Brighton.
Harry’s extensive experience means that when he calls someone ‘one of the best surgeons I have ever worked with’ you know George must be great.
“He is also an incredibly good doctor,” Harry goes on to say about George, a general surgery specialist, “and he is a great friend.
“He was my best man for our wedding and is godfather to our son. When we first met we just clicked quite well.”
George grew up in Essex, studying maths and physics at Cambridge University, before training in London at the Royal Free Hospital.
“My mother said I would be a good doctor so that is what I did,” 63-year-old George reveals.
After qualifying, and during his junior surgical training, George set off to Western Australia with his wife – a GP – and at the time his two small children where he worked for a year.
When they came back it was Eastbourne that beckoned.
“The main reason was I wanted to be down in the south of England and somewhere I could go sailing and it was a very good hospital,” George explains. “Eastbourne is a great place to bring up three children.”
I am keen to learn why George decided to focus on vascular surgery – working on blood vessels around the body such as in the abdomen, legs and neck but not the heart.
“Vascular surgery is exciting and technically demanding and it is fun,” George enthuses as I raise my eyebrow at the word ‘fun’.
“You get a buzz out of doing stressful things. It is the never the same, no two operations are the same. Sometimes it takes us three days of planning.”
“I remember one time we had a patient who was allergic to latex,” interjects Harry. “Lots of the equipment was latex so we had to buy in equipment.
“It is all down to good planning and communication.”
“When we did our 100th aorta 18 years ago we had two on the same day and the 101st man was not happy,” George recalls.
“We had a cake to celebrate,” he smiles, showing me a side of the medical world I had not considered.
“The main thing I will miss is working with my friends and colleagues,” George adds. “It is a team. My secretary Helen has worked with me from the beginning. She keeps me organised and is great and patients love her.”
Emphasising this idea of team, the
two friends explain how they insist on
“We just work as a team,” explains Harry, going on to reveal the pair have now done 300 aorta operations together.
Plus Harry has kept a record of the number of patients he has anaesthetised – “Just under 17,000 people as a consultant,” he says proudly.
It is their camaraderie that apparently comes across when they are working on patients under local anaesthetic.
“The patient enjoys the experience,” George insists. “They can see we are all relaxed and friendly.”
It is clear the two men’s retirement will be a loss for the hospital but it seems it will not be the end of this double act.
* Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.
1 Make our website your homepage at www.eastbourneherald.co.uk
2 Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/eastbourneherald
3 Follow us on Twitter @eastbournenews
4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!
The Eastbourne Herald - always the first with your local news.
Be part of it.