Pioneering transplant surgeon Sir Roy Calne dies aged 93

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Sir Roy Calne’s son, Russell, said he was “an incredible person to have as a father”
By Lewis Adams
BBC News, Cambridgeshire

Pioneering British surgeon Prof Sir Roy Calne, who undertook the first liver transplant operation in Europe, has died at the age of 93.

Sir Roy led the operation at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge in 1968, a year after the US’s first successful liver transplant.

The world-leading surgeon, who died of heart failure overnight on Saturday, received a Pride of Britain award for his life’s work.

His son Russell said he was “an incredible person to have as a father”.

“He was an amazing character, a slight eccentric and a wonderful father to six children,” Mr Calne said.

“We were all very, very proud of him for everything he has achieved and done, and we’ve been to some amazing places due to his accolades.”

‘Illustrious career’

Born in Richmond, Surrey, Sir Roy was educated at Lancing College before having his medical training at Guys Hospital in London.

He was the first to use drugs to control the rejection of donated organs and this led to a major expansion of organ grafting worldwide.

The pioneering surgeon won the Pride of Britain award for lifetime achievement in 2014

Several of the immunosuppressive drugs used today were even introduced by Sir Roy.

The world-class surgeon went on to start a kidney transplant programme in Cambridge in 1965, before he performed the first liver transplant in Europe three years later.

Sir Roy’s work saw him elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1974 and knighted in 1986.

The following year, he undertook the world’s first liver, heart and lung transplant with the Royal Papworth Hospital’s John Wallwork.

He collected numerous accolades including the Pride of Britain award for lifetime achievement in 2014.

Sir Roy’s work saw him receive a knighthood in 1986

“He was very driven by his work and he was also very widely academic as well,” Mr Calne said.

“He used to have nightmares about patients that had died; it wasn’t all roses for him, it was stressful but he never showed that.”

Sir Roy loved sport and would squeeze in a game of squash around lengthy operations if he could, his son added.

He continued to ski up to the age of 75 and played tennis until he was 80.

“He was very much a down to earth person who looked after the little people, that was part of his forte,” Mr Calne said.

“Though a genius he never portrayed it to us, we were only ever shown love by him.”

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2 May 2018