Ronald Charles KingBMJ 2014; 349 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g7514 (Published 05 December 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g7514
All rapid responses
Ronnie King - reminiscence
Sad to read of Ronnie King’s recent demise. I got to know him well (although then as ‘Dr King’ rather than ‘Ronnie’) in 1970 when I worked as his first ever SHO at the Kent and Sussex Hospital. This was my second year post qualification, and first as a registered doctor, having done surgical and medical house jobs at Kingston Hospital in Surrey. Kingston had been the first non-Teaching Hospital to build an intensive care unit and offered housemen there an unusual exposure to the various skills and problems associated with this higher level of care provision.
In late 1969 I read the advertisement for an SHO in General Medicine and Coronary Care at the ‘K and S’ and applied with little hope as I believe they had in mind a junior doctor with rather more experience than me, possessing, preferably, part one of MRCP. Somewhat surprised to be shortlisted, I made my way to Tunbridge Wells to be grilled by Dr King and Dr Everest, in a small room off a corridor leading, if my memory is correct, to wards and private rooms. The interview was, I thought, going averagely well when a loud bell rang and the Consultants jumped to their feet muttering “Crash call! Do you want to come?”
I followed them to a side-ward where we found an elderly (I would find him young now) gentleman on a monitor – I don’t remember whether it was VT or VF. I went into auto ‘Kingston Hospital arrest mode’, and while one or other of the seniors was compressing the chest, I asked for and got a ‘cut-down’ kit, and proceeded to cannulate his long saphenous vein at the ankle to get access. (In those days central venous lines were not routine and such an insertion would certainly have been beyond me.) Likewise I forget what I administered but it probably included adrenaline and sodium bicarbonate. We got him round!
Back in the interview room Dr King sat me down and said he had two things to say to me. Firstly that the aged gentleman I had just resuscitated was one of their colleagues, and second, that I had got the job.
What followed, under Ronnie King’s benign tutelage, was to be the best year of medicine in my career. The team was small: three Consultants, a registrar, me the SHO, and four house physicians, two from King’s at the K & S and two from Guy’s at Pembury, five miles away. There was no EWTD and we averaged well over 100 hours per week. The Consultants had to be called in if we couldn’t cope and I remember it took three demonstrations out-of-hours before I could insert a right heart catheter on my own.
Ronnie’s vision for this first ever coronary care unit outside London proved a major success and a model for the others that inevitably followed elsewhere. There were five beds and the nursing staff was headed by five sisters, all trained either at St Thomas’ Mead Ward or the Brompton. Inevitably it transmuted into an intensive care ward and was fully occupied throughout my time there. My wife and I lived, with year-old baby (now an anaesthetist in Oslo), in a vermin-infested flat opposite Casualty which was exactly 27 seconds from the CCU.
I moved from Tunbridge Wells at the end of 1970 to St Thomas’ Hospital (Lambeth) where I stayed until my retirement in 2013. I had learned so much medicine from the wise, ever-smiling Ronnie King and his (right-heart-catheter-wielding) colleague Michael Everest that the cases and questions in part II, the clinical section of MRCP, could be answered from experience rather than book-learning.
Once installed as a Consultant at St Thomas’ I came across Ronnie occasionally in his role as Regional Postgraduate Dean but remain to this day indebted to this fine, humorous, gifted, ever-smiling physician and innovator.
Competing interests: No competing interests