An amazing story featuring a Sri Lankan father and son doctor duo in the UK was published across sections of the UK media recently. This story hit the media spotlight as part of a new BBC TV documentary set to air on British TV titled Our NHS: A Hidden History which sees broadcaster and historian David Olusoga discover the hidden and challenging history of medical personnel from overseas who have been serving the NHS for over seventy years.
Kidney patient Yvette Philips was saved not once but twice by a kidney transplant of which the first was performed by Sri Lankan Dr Ossie Fernando in 1977 and again 34 years later by Dr Ossie Fernando’s own son Dr Bimbi Fernando.
In 1977, Yvette Philips who was only ten years old became one of the youngest patients in the UK to have a kidney transplant. Dr Ossie Fernando who was working as a consultant at the time performed the operation on Yvette at the Royal Free Hospital after she had suffered renal failure which left her exhausted by undergoing dialysis five days a week.
At the time Yvette had her first transplant done they said it would last only five years but it lasted 34 and a half years. “It only failed because of wear and tear. I had worn it out I think,” says Yvette. When Yvette’s kidney started to fail in 2010, she was referred to the hospital once again. At that time Yvette contacted Dr Ossie and requested that he do another transplant on her. But Dr Ossie who had retired by then said he was unable to perform the transplant. Yvette had replied “In that case I will get the other Fernando to do the operation”. Yvette has also said that “I was adamant that the operation be done by Dr Bimbi” she adds. Her wishes were granted when Dr Bimbi carried out her second transplant.
In a video aired by the BBC advertising the programme Dr Ossie talks about his work in the NHS. Born in Sri Lanka Dr Ossie Fernando came to London in 1963 and worked there ever since then. He along with his wife arrived in the UK with their two sons Chris and Rohan. Their third son Bimbi was born in the UK and followed his father’s footsteps to become a transplant surgeon at the same hospital as his father.
In 1968 when Ossie qualified as a surgeon he got his big break joining a new kidney transplant team at the Royal Free Hospital in London. For Dr Ossie’s patients a kidney transplant meant a release from life saving but debilitating dialysis treatment.
At the time Yvette had her first transplant done they said it would last only five years but it lasted 34 and a half years. “It only failed because of wear and tear. I had worn it out I think,” says Yvette. When Yvette’s kidney started to fail in 2010, she was referred to the hospital once again. At that time Yvette contacted Dr Ossie and requested that he do another transplant on her.
Also speaking on the programme Dr Bimbi Fernando says "It is absolutely wonderful to be part of Yvette’s life and to see what happens to her."
Yvette Philips never thought she could lead a normal live but thanks to the transplant she was able to learn to drive, get married and also have a daughter whose middle name is Fearne as a tribute to Dr Fernando.
For Yvette Philips, Ossie and his son Bimbi are more than lifesavers they have a special connection between their families.