Our much-loved friend and respected colleague, Dr David Milford, Consultant Paediatric Nephrologist, is retiring after spending more than 30 years in the Renal Service at our Children’s Hospital.
Dr Milford qualified in Southampton Medical School and trained at several hospital such as Southampton, Winchester, Queen Charlotte Hospital and to Sheffield Children’s Hospital where his interest in paediatrics really grew, before joining Birmingham Children’s Hospital in June 1988 at its previous Ladywood site as a Research Fellow in Renal. After finishing the research project he stayed on as Senior Registrar, before becoming a Consultant in 1992.
The Renal Service was started by Professor White in 1965 and was very different back then as patients were seen across several sites; dialysis patients were at Heartlands Hospital, kidney transplant patients at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Nephrology based at the Children’s Hospital. In order to review a patient teams had to travel to all three hospitals. What made it more difficult was that there were no paediatric nurses or consultants at the city’s Queen Elizabeth at that time.
The first big change came in 1993 when the Dialysis Unit was transferred over to the Children’s, transplant patients followed in 1997 meaning all the renal services were on one site and for the first time in their own ward
When the Children’s Hospital moved across the city 1998 to its current site in Steelhouse Lane; the dedicated ward moved too.
The advantage of moving to Steelhouse Lane meant that all renal patients were looked after by paediatric renal nurses and doctors in one ward area; urology and urodynamics were also for the first time located with renal providing continuity of care for children with complex kidney and bladder problems. By having all the services together, Dr Milford and his colleagues were able to build up their multidisciplinary teams from the very beginning of a patient’s diagnosis through to transplantation. This helped to significantly improve patient care and their health journey.
He said: “It’s hard to think about being split over three sites – the quality of care now and the environment is so much better than before. It also meant that that we could better support other services and specialties, such as offering dialysis to non-renal patients including those on intensive care where dialysis was not available at the time. We were able to help establish renal replacement therapy on PICU which is now provided by them without needing nurses from the renal unit.”
Before Dr Milford left us to enjoy his well-deserved retirement we asked him a few questions about his career
You’ve spent more than 30 years at our Children’s Hospital, why have you stayed here so long?
“Nephrology has been my main interest and it’s been such a stimulating and rewarding specialty to work in because of the clinical work, the opportunity to produce research publications, as well as teaching and training of UK doctors and those from countries where they are unable to train in the specialty.
“Also, when you’re part of a specialist department, you become part of an extended family and you feel part of the hospital – it makes working more pleasurable and you gain more satisfaction.
“Working in a hospital that has the staff and equipment to look after children with kidney disease is an important part of why I continued to work here. I have had the privilege of looking after children with serious kidney disease from birth until they are transferred to adult services. I have even attended the weddings of former patients and kept in touch with them for years after they have left our care. I recently met with four patients who were celebrating the 25th anniversary of the kidney transplant they had while at Ladywood, they still have their transplant and are doing well.”
What makes this place special?
“Many years ago when I was still a trainee, there was another who said to me ‘you’ve got to work in a children’s hospital, it’s very different working in a hospital dedicated to looking after children when compared to working in a hospital that is mostly for adults.’
“This whole hospital is geared up to looking after children so we can ensure the service is fine-tuned to looking after them and their families. There’s just a different feel and philosophy – children always come first here.”
What’s the best part of the job?
“For me a big attraction is helping a child with a serious medical condition grow and develop physically, educationally and socially into an independent young adult by providing good quality health care through multi-professional teamwork - helping them to achieve their potential.
“While it’s sad to see them transfer to adult services this is really what we’re working for from the first day they come to our service - to see them move on and go to the adult teams as independent individuals that hopefully have a career and even families of their own. “
What will you miss?
“I’ll miss the patient contact and my colleagues – all my nephrology and multi-professional team who I’ve worked with over the years to develop this service. There are colleagues with whom I have a long history and we have overcome a lot of things together. We’ve bonded, not just through the stress of looking after sick children, but also through the challenges of developing a high-quality service that needs a lot of resources. I will miss all of these fantastic people.”
Can you give us one of your favourite memories?
“There are patient-related things and there are department things. The 25th Anniversary of the unit being established was a special event at the Town Hall where guests included staff and patients. It was a fantastic event and we managed to contact a number of former patients. It was a lovely evening of reminiscing and sharing memories.”
“There have also been some very poignant memories. I’ve felt honoured to have been asked to speak at funerals – we have few deaths of our patients but it is such a privilege that, despite the tragic circumstances, parents still want to involve you in their lives. Similarly, it has been a privilege to attend the weddings of former patients.”
What’s next and what are your plans?
“I will be working as a locum for two days a week for three months until the end of June so that will ease me in to stopping work completely. It’s nice to have the time off during the week but I’m looking forward to being able to make plans to visit family and travel abroad, so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to do this soon. I also want to spend more time on my fitness by joining a gym and going swimming regularly again.
“I’m a Trustee for a transplant charity that does transplants in developing nations in the Caribbean and Africa - that part of my life is becoming quite busy. I do want to get more involved in local community activities. I’m unsure what but I want to give something back.
“I’ve also enrolled on to an art appreciation course – I want to expand my mind.
“My wife and I want to spend more time with the grandchildren. It’s been difficult to only see them over Zoom during lockdown so I hope we can see them physically soon.”