“A Fine Doctor He Was, and a Fine Man”

peterHis sister Yvonne writes about my friend Peter Baginsky, 1950-2014:

‘As many of you will know,  there have been so many ‘miracles’ on this journey:  Peter’s successful  8-hour ‘brain-mapping’ operation at UCSF one week after diagnosis in January 2009; his brave and often excruciating,  but again successful, experience with radiotherapy and three chemotherapy drugs for the year following surgery.  Then four years in which, with powerful patience, focus and determination – and joy –  he managed to pick up his work as a diabetes specialist in N. California, his teaching as a much-loved Professor at Touro Medical School in San Francisco, and his research devoted to developing a new fast-food test to identify pre-diabetes.

But glioblastomas are fiercely aggressive tumours, and, allegedly,  always recur.   Peter’s recurred with such force in January that it threw him off his chair onto the floor in the middle of a residents’ teaching session, completely smashing his upper thigh and hip.  An immediate emergency hip replacement operation followed, then four more as the new hip kept dislocating, and suddenly he was in a wheel chair, trying to learn how to walk again.

In March, by now very seriously ill, Peter bravely flew to Zurich, Switzerland, where, on a clinical trial, he became the first person in the world to be successfully treated by a revolutionary new treatment called MRI-guided Focused Ultrasound: “ein Wunder!” – a miracle! – the specially assembled team of neurosurgeons, physicists, and engineers called it.

For six months the normally rapidly-growing tumour was, amazingly, completely static and even seemed to be shrinking slightly.  But then in September, so sadly and disappointingly, things started to get difficult.  Patient, hopeful, strong and determined as ever, Peter decided to go back on one of the chemo drugs he’d responded well to in 2009.  But he gradually lost his voice, and then couldn’t open his eyes, and one whole side became weaker and weaker.

Last Thursday suddenly things seemed to take a turn for the worse. Despite his strength, determination, and seemingly never-flagging hope and  good  cheer, my brother Peter died on Friday, 14 November , at 1:20pm at his home in California, with his wife, son and daughter by his side.

In all this time, through all these rollercoaster years, none of us –  his family, friends, students, patients, doctors, nurses – ever heard even the tiniest word of complaint or hint of irritability. In the most undignified and painful situations, he remained a person of great dignity, considerate and gentle.   As one of his family’s friends just wrote:  “a fine doctor he was, and a fine man”. ‘