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By Drs A Polak, Venkat Raman Gopalakrishnan, and John Hopewell. From John Hopewell’s collection of Renal Unit histories.

John Hopewell: The history of renal medicine in Portsmouth is unique in that dialysis for acute renal failure was practised there when it had been virtually abandoned at the Hammersmith Hospital in favour of the Bull/Borst dietary and electrolytic regimen. Stewart Cameron has described this in his History of the Treatment of Renal Failure (Oxford University Press):-

“Thus, from 1947 to 1956 no more dialysis was carried out in the United Kingdom, except for 19 patients treated in Portsmouth. In 1947 to 1948, using a development of the Kolff kidney constructed by a local garage for the physician-pathologist E. Michael Darmady (1906 – 1989). Darmady placed his machine in a van and went from hospital to hospital dialysing patients on site. Only two of the 19 survived, however, and a change to full-time pathology put an end to his project. Darmady also designed in 1948, a much more advanced type of artificial kidney involving a flat plate design, but using tubing for the dialysis, and had a flame photometer built to his own specification.in I948. Darmady, although little known today, became internationally known during the 1950s because of his work using the nephron microdissection method of Jean Oliver, and later for morphological studies on the kidney in old age.”

AP: I was appointed as a general physician in Portsmouth in 1963 with several sessions  set aside to set up a renal service for the Wessex Region. The Region extended Westward all the way to Lyme Regis, and of course it included Southampton. The surprising choice of such a (literally) eccentric base as Portsmouth, when there was not at that time an East-West motorway, was mainly due to the presence there of Michael Darmady and of the only specialist urology department (under W. Wiggins-Davies) in the Region. Harry Lee joined me, and John Vinnicombe joined Wiggins, in 1966/1967.

Meanwhile the Southampton University Medical School was being set up, and the first students came in about 1969. Michael and I were both appointed Clinical Professors in 1969 and full professors in 1971. John, Harry and our microbiologist Rosalind Maskell also joined the teaching staff. We set up renal outpatient clinics in several centres, including Southampton, in the 1970’s, and Harry pioneered the establishment of satellite dialysis units throughout the Region. Harry Lee, whose contribution to all this was huge, was given a personal chair by the University in the 1970’s.

Forbes Abercrombie was appointed as consultant Urological Surgeon in 1967. Until 1972 kidney transplantation was referred to St Mary’s Hospital, London. Mick Bewick was invited to perform the first renal transplant in Portsmouth, after which the two urological surgeons performed the next dozen or so operations. Maurice Slapak was then appointed as the dedicated renal transplant surgeon in 1975.

VRG: The Unit has thrived over the years, with the appointment of nephrologists David Warren in 1978, followed by G. Venkat Raman in 1985 and Juan Mason in 1986, along with transplant surgeon Martin Wise in 1986. The Unit now hosts 8 nephrologists and 4 transplant surgeons. The number of surviving transplant patients is nearly 800 and around 500 patients undertake regular dialysis. There is a very active nephrology programme with over 2000 patients. Clinics and satellite dialysis centres are located in Southampton, Totton, Milford-on-Sea, Isle of Wight, Chandlers Ford, Salisbury, Basingstoke, Winchester, Havant, Chichester and Bognor Regis.

Last Updated on July 30, 2022 by neilturn