Canoe trips, flashlight operations, snake bites, witnesses to a lost world


They say a picture is worth a thousand words. That of the surgeon then psychiatrist Patricia Horne, who died on October 29, opens a fascinating window on the life of the late Irish doctor, who operated in Africa in the 1950s by the light of kerosene lamps and without running water.

What he doesn’t communicate, however, is the excitement of the man who repeatedly pointed his head when Dr Horne entered the canoe. He told her she sewn it up after sustaining horrific injuries when a tree branch cut his scalp as he drove under it in an open-top vehicle.

You also can’t tell that Dr. Horne’s car is on another raft upstream. She didn’t travel with it in case he fell.

As she told historian Ida Milne, when traveling the rivers of Nigeria, you always had to be careful: “You had to watch out for crocodiles, so you shouldn’t put your feet or fingers in the water. ‘water.

These and other vivid memories of working in Nigeria and Zambia in the late 1950s and later, in her 70s, in Zambia and Kenya, are captured in the fascinating interview with Ms Milne, who is part of the Royal Academy of Medicine living medical history project in Ireland. , which is archived at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

Dr Horne recalled the working conditions in Nsukka in Nigeria, where she was the only doctor in the hospital and worked 12 hours a day to treat patients with tuberculosis and yaws, a chronic infection of the skin, bones and cartilage.

Yaws was “absolutely awful, scary,” she said. “They would have sores all over the person and, if the mother had yaws on her face, the baby would pick it up.”

She also remembered her work in obstetrics, which was often made more difficult because pregnant women left her late to go to the hospital.

“I was like, ‘Why didn’t you come in earlier?’ “We were waiting for the next moon”. They counted their dates in 10 lunar months, which of course was longer than our nine months, with the result that they all arrived about 10 days too late.

Dr Horne knew she had a difficult obstetric case if she saw a woman being carried on a plank of wood because she was too sick to walk.

It was “the same if you saw a man enter on a bicycle or on a plank of wood; you knew he had a fractured spine, usually from falling from palm trees ”.

She spoke about the treatment for snakebites and the prohibitive cost of anti-venom drugs, which were almost as expensive as the price of a house.

When Dr Horne returned to Africa in the 1990s, she witnessed the scourge of AIDS. His retirement in 1992 only lasted two years.

“It suddenly struck me: I have medical qualifications; why am I sitting here? she told journalist Sue Leonard in 1999, explaining her decision to work in a Zambian hospital run by the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary.

When funds ran out, she would send SOS to Margaret, her twin sister, who still lives in Ranelagh, and use the money she raised to buy drugs. She described seeing entire families die from AIDS-related tuberculosis.

“It was just terrible and the children were starving too. I think it was the worst thing. You couldn’t do anything for them. We had no drugs at the time.

When she passed away last month, you might have expected to hear about it. If she had been a politician, for example, the death of this exceptional woman might have made the headlines of the evening.

Graduated from UCD in 1955, she joined Mater before working in Africa. Upon her return in 1959, she was the first female Registrar of Surgery at Mater Hospital, then worked as a consultant psychiatrist at St Davnet’s Hospital in Monaghan. Under the direction of Chief Psychiatrist John Owens, Dr Horne was responsible for implementing the transfer of long-stay patients to the community – another pioneering development.

Fortunately, it is not at all true to say that Dr. Horne’s contribution is not remembered. Her work – and that of Margaret’s, who was a medical social worker – is widely admired.

Consultant obstetrician and gynecologist Nóirín Russell remembers meeting the sisters a few years ago.

“They really stood out in my memory. Patricia … told me that her mother Delia [Moclair] was the first female assistant teacher at the National Maternity [NMH]. [Patricia’s grandfather, Patrick Moclair of Ballinree, Cashel, was one of the leaders of the Plan of Campaign in South Tipperary].

“When the master [Andrew Horne]The son of returned from the war to work at NMH, they fell in love. She had to give up work when they got married. I remember thinking it was amazing after all the work she had put into learning the skills to become a master assistant.

“I mentioned to her that I was in the same job as her mother a few years ago. Fortunately, I was not expected to quit work when I got married.

Patricia Horne also told the story of her birth and that of her twin at their home in Merrion Square in central Dublin.

“Patricia was the second twin. Her sister Margaret said that as the first twin the only time she had peace to talk was the three and a half hours she had before Patricia arrived.

National Museum of Military History curator Brenda Malone also remembers Patricia Horne – and her sister – with great fondness. In 2014, they donated their father Andrew Horne’s collection of war photographs to the museum.

Lt Andrew J Horne, 17th Stationary Hospital attached to the 29th Division at Gallipoli in 1915-16. Photo: National Museum of Ireland

An attendant at the Royal Army Medical Corps, Dr Andrew Horne was one of the last five officers to leave Gallipoli and his exceptional photographs of shell explosions, captured Turkish soldiers and the Gallipoli evacuation are of international significance. They are now part of the Recovered Voices exhibition at Collins Barracks in Dublin.

What is striking is that none of the girls spoke for themselves when they donated the photographs of their father.

“It is so often the case,” says Ms. Malone. “They came to see us with their father’s photographs because they wanted to pay tribute to him. They didn’t say anything about themselves.

Too often, the stories of people who make such a valuable contribution to this world simply disappear when they are gone.

Fortunately, this will not happen in the case of Dr Patricia Horne, as her words were recorded by Ms Milne in a project that traces the enormous changes in medicine that have taken place over the past century.

One of these changes, highlighted by Dr Horne in 2013, is food for thought.

“I wouldn’t have gone into medicine by now. I would not have had the points. We entered our registration… but now that’s all the points. I wouldn’t have come in, not at all.

What a loss that would have been.


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