NOEL French has been saving little lives for 38 years.
The clinical Associate Professor at King Edward Memorial Hospital (KEMH) has just retired after decades of working in the neonatal intensive care unit and leading follow-up for pre-term and sick infants, as well as nine years as the head of department.
“The most rewarding thing is the opportunity to be part of families’ lives from the very beginning; inevitably you get involved with some extremely high risk pregnancies, before, during and after,” Prof French said.
“The tiny prems are battling, and there’s satisfaction seeing those children grow into adults.”
Prof French became involved with KEMH as a registrar while in advanced training at Princess Margaret Hospital.
The doctor then took a job in development paediatrics with Dr Trevor Parry and worked in childhood development disorders for a couple of years before being invited back to the NICU, where he was recruited to run the neonatal follow-up program.
“My role has been two fold really; one as an acute doctor in NICU, and the other that of organising and carrying out follow-up assessments of extremely pre-term children and reporting on the outcomes,” he said.
“Individual families’ stories have been very special; sometimes sad, more often glad, and most of the children have a happy outcome so it’s a nice area of medicine to be in.”
Prof French said the change since his start in medicine, when the outcome of babies was determined by weight rather than gestation time, had been dramatic.
“Very pre-term children of 20 to 24 weeks we see surviving now, and they were a rarity in those years,” he said.
“Technology’s been a lot to do with that, and so has attitude; being willing to give these kids a go.
“There’s controversy still in most countries about where’s the bottom limit, how low should you go when offering care.
“We’ve always been at the forefront that says ‘give them a go’.”