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The master’s legacy: the first Paul Wood lecture
  1. J Somerville
  1. Grown-Up Congenital Heart Unit, Royal Brompton Hospital, Sydney Street, London SW3 6NP, UK
  1. Professor Somerville.

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The 13th of July 1962 was a bright summer’s day. Shafts of sunlight lit the dreary side room of Meyerstein ward in the Middlesex Hospital, London. Paul Wood, deceptively frail looking, was in bed, his china blue eyes looked out from the balding head. The technician, David Gibbons, who took his ECG that morning, told me on the day of this lecture that Paul Wood had looked at his ECG, commented “it’s irreversible” and reflected silently. By the afternoon he was in high morale, free from angina, and happy in the belief that the intravenous heparin would dissolve the newly formed clot in his left anterior descending coronary artery. Walter Somerville, to whose care he had entrusted himself for the worsening angina of a week’s duration, came in to see him with the house physician. “You know Walter, if things don’t go well, I do not want resuscitation or my chest opened.” “Yes Paul, I do,” said Walter. “You may know but does that fellow?” pointing at the house officer (Michael Harrison, destined to become a distinguished neurologist), continuing, “If he does it, I’ll bloody well come back and sue him if he’s successful”—peals of laughter, so characteristic of Wood, who loved the macabre. Walter Somerville left the ward to continue the weekly ward round.

Several hours later Paul’s wife, Betty, ran from the room to ask Walter to come quickly as “suddenly Paul’s breathing was peculiar”. Paul Wood was pulseless with barely audible heart sounds; they stood quietly by the bedside observing death. “As instructed and agreed we made no effort to resuscitate him.” Cardiologists, always quick to criticise Wood’s views and particularly those physicians opposed to the use of anticoagulants, muttered “ruptured heart—shouldn’t have been given anticoagulants”. Somerville quickly decided, against the advice of powerful senior colleagues, that …

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