THE phrases "blue babies" and "hole-in-the-heart children" conjure very distressing images, but it was Dr Olive Scott, who has died at the age of 82, who played a leading part in developing treatments which transformed the lives of sufferers
There are many healthy adults in Yorkshire and elsewhere today who can truly be said to owe their lives to the work of Dr Scott and her colleagues.
In 1966 Dr Scott was appointed the first-ever paediatric cardiologist, not just in Leeds, but in the UK. She developed the care of the newborn, infant and child with congenital heart disease, her work and research having worldwide impact
Before the mid-1960s there was virtually nothing available to help the newborn child with cyanotic (blue) congenital heart disease. Infants at the time were generally cared for by adult cardiologists and general paediatricians. Dr Scott, a paediatrician who had gained significant expertise in adult cardiology, combined the two specialities into paediatric cardiology.
She had acquired her cardiology skills at the Children's Hospital in Liverpool. Leeds was at that time an established centre for the treatment of adults with heart disease. Killingbeck Hospital, built at the turn of the century as a chest hospital, was turned into a cardiothoracic centre the year Dr Scott was appointed.
She worked tirelessly, often battling fearlessly for resources and additional staff. The Paediatric Cardiac Unit grew rapidly, providing care for children not only from within Yorkshire but including parts of Lancashire, Cleveland and south to Trent, sometimes also further afield within the UK and including, occasionally, children from Europe.
That the reputation of the care and surgical success at Killingbeck (a hospital she loved, but whose unfortunate name she tried hard, but unsuccessfully, to change), rapidly became second to none in the UK, was in many respects a consequence of Dr Scott's great energy.
She excelled as a clinician and understood the value of accurate record keeping. She was applying what is now known as "clinical audit" before it became generally accepted and required.
Long before personal computers were available, virtually every other Saturday morning, Dr Scott would be in her office meticulously keeping her punch card system updated. Woe betide anyone who, without authority, plunged the selecting needle into the stack of cards. The punch card system enabled Dr Scott to write clinical papers on the outcome of new medical and surgical techniques.
For years Dr Scott continued to undertake a full on-call commitment every other night and every alternate weekend in addition to being a totally supportive wife and mother.
She had clear insight into the advantages of the development of ultrasound techniques in the later l970s. An ambitious plan to construct and develop the UK's first dedicated non-invasive cardiac diagnostic unit was supported by the Yorkshire branch of the Variety Club of Great Britain and opened in l976. The relationship with the Variety Club enabled continued expansion and the application of the very latest technology.
Over the years Dr Scott trained and encouraged many foreign doctors who often became enraptured by her perfect English diction. (She was proud to be a Licentiate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.)
In l986 Dr Scott decided to retire and enjoy quality time with her husband James, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Leeds. She distanced herself completely from medicine, as she thought there was nothing worse than individuals "lingering on".
She was not, however, emotionally detached, and the closure, some 10 years later, of the Cardiothoracic Centre at Killingbeck Hospital – it was be be transferred to a new wing at Leeds Infirmary – made her very unhappy.
Meeting a former colleague soon after the announcement, she said: "Well, was it all worth it? Clearly not!"
The countless children of that era, now more than middle aged, would disagree as they owe so much to Dr Scott, many of them continuing to ask after her well-being years after her retirement. Medically she made an enormous footprint, establishing and promoting paediatric cardiology.
She also made her retirement as full as her working years.
James died last September and she is survived by two sons, Alistair and Malcolm.