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South African Journal of Surgery

versão On-line ISSN 2078-5151
versão impressa ISSN 0038-2361

S. Afr. j. surg. vol.56 no.3 Cape Town Set. 2018




Mr Roy Wise




Roy Wise was born on 11 November 1928, in Johannesburg. He matriculated from Potchefstroom High School and started as an undergraduate in medicine at Wits University the following year. He graduated in 1951 with honours in Surgery, clear in his mind that he was destined to become a surgeon. Following his internship at Addington Hospital in 1952, he commenced his surgical training at the Hammersmith Hospital in London where he spent 2 years. He subsequently returned to King Edward VIII Hospital where he completed his registrar training. His mentors in Durban were Lawrence Pearson and Aubrey Radford. He wrote both the London and Edinburgh examinations after which he commenced private practice at Entabeni Hospital in Durban in 1960, joining Mannie Stein. The spectrum of procedures at that time included hysterectomies, prostatectomies, and some orthopaedic procedures such as menisectomies, in addition to the general surgical operations. Roy and Mannie visited Michael de Bakey and Denton Cooley in Houston, and on returning to Durban, they performed the first aortic aneurysm surgery. They went on to establish a full vascular surgery practice at Entabeni Hospital. Despite Roy's passion for vascular surgery, he also had an interest in head and neck, laparoscopic and colorectal surgery, which he practised for the next 53 years. He was also involved in running the vascular clinic at Addington Hospital from 1968 until 1989.

During his long career, Roy operated on several remarkable people. He performed a gastrectomy on the administrator of Natal, Sir Dennis Shepstone, not long after starting in private practice, with a favourable outcome. He felt that having worked with Sir Norman Tanner at Balham Hospital contributed to his confidence in performing this procedure. In the early 1970s, he and Freddie Nel performed the first renal transplant at Addington Hospital. He also repaired a ruptured aortic aneurysm on Alan Paton. He was one of the pioneers of laparoscopic surgery in Durban and gained rapid expertise in cholecystectomies, Nissen fundoplications and thoracoscopic sympathectomies. He was honoured to perform a laparoscopic cholecystectomy on well-known Richards Bay surgeon, Rex Henderson. He was asked to be the surgeon to Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth 2, during their visit to Durban in 1995. Subsequently the same privilege was extended to him by Ronald Regan and Al Gore. Joining Professor Sandie Thomson in Operation Hernia Ghana at the age of 79 was another career highlight, in part, due to its geographical location in the Equatorial Forests. He was the recipient of the South African Association of Surgeons Distinguished Service Award in 2009.

I was in partnership with Roy for nearly 20 years and with John Strachan for a considerable part of that time. It was quite apparent that he was an enormously disciplined individual, ethical and honest. He set a high standard for himself and expected the same of others. He was often deeply disillusioned by what he felt were short cuts or financially motivated decisions taken by colleagues. He was exceptionally generous with his time, particularly regarding mentoring of junior colleagues. He would make himself available in the small hours of the morning or interrupt a Wednesday game of golf at the drop of a hat to assist at a difficult procedure. He had an infectious sense of humour and a superb command of the English language. By the time he started scrubbing at exactly 07h30 on a morning slate, he had completed a '10 mile' run, completed his ward rounds and dispatched the morning Mercury newspaper crossword puzzle. On occasion, the anaesthetists were seen turning back the theatre clock to make the 07h30 deadline.

Roy's passion for nature and anatomy was strongly reminiscent of John Hunter's. Roy was a founder member of the Dendrological Society and its first chairman. He was a remarkable amateur botanist, publishing from time to time in Veld and Flora. His interest in ornithology was keen. He was a trustee of the Flora and Fauna Publications Trust which resulted in several landmark publications, including Trees of Eastern South Africa a Complete Guide by Richard Boon and Elsa Pooley. Some of his tree photographs were included in this publication.

Despite Roy's dedication to his busy practice and family, he still found time to run 21 Comrade's Marathons, receiving silver medals for 11 of them. He had his private pilot's licence and for a while was part owner of a Tigermoth biplane. Roy was a self-confessed bibliophile, his valued possession was his extraordinary collection of Natural Science, History and Africana books.

Val, Roy's wife of 60 years, passed away shortly before him. Roy passed away at the age of 89, leaving 2 daughters, Sally and Candy, and a grandson, Michael. Roy will be remembered fondly by his family, friends, colleagues and the staff at Entabeni Hospital, for the kind and remarkable person that he was. A plaque of remembrance will be placed on the wall outside theatre one at Entabeni Hospital, the theatre in which he spent so much of his life operating.

Roy was a surgeon, an intellectual, a naturalist, an historian and a close friend.


Craig Campbell

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