Professor David Tudehope walks Miles for Miracles

Professor David Tudehope walks Miles for Miracles

It has been more than 40 years since Professor David Tudehope first stepped onto a neonatology ward, but his passion to save the lives of premature and sick newborns remains as strong as ever.

Although he retired five years ago, Mater’s former Director of Neonatology today laces up his hiking shoes for a six-day trek along the Great Wall of China to raise funds for the department he founded in 1977.

Professor Tudehope, 69, joins a team of 25 fundraisers including Mater’s Deputy Director of Neonatology Dr Lucy Cooke and former Olympian Judy Luxton who hope to raise $150 000 for neonatal and fertility services at Mater.

“When I found out that this year’s Miles for Miracles was supporting Mater Little Miracles, specifically neonatology and alternative conception methods, I jumped at the opportunity to be involved,” Prof Tudehope said.

“I have had an interest in Chinese history since my visit to Mater’s sister hospital, the Zhejiang Maternity Hospital in Hangzhou in 2002, and I am keen to learn more when I’m there.”

Prof Tudehope has set himself a fundraising target of $15,000—with more than $8000 already donated.

“To put that into perspective, it costs more than $2000 a day to treat a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit,” he said.

As part of his training regime, Prof Tudehope has been spotted on the walking tracks at Mt Coot-tha and Mt Coolum, as well as climbing the Kangaroo Point Cliff stairs.

“Last Saturday I went up and down the Kangaroo Point cliff stairs 16 times in 38 minutes; that’s 112 steps multiplied by 16 which is a lot, about 2000 steps, I think,” he said.

A keen runner, Prof Tudehope has completed eight Gold Coast half marathons and more than 10 Bridge to Brisbane events—but he admits the Great Wall presents an entirely new challenge.

“As I understand it, the steps are also not consistent; some are quite tall, others are narrow and some are crumbled. People who have done it before say you can’t get into a rhythm so it will be challenging in that respect.”

Prof Tudehope, who pioneered neonatology in Queensland, was given his first taste of the specialty while on rotation at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne in 1972.

“Those were the absolute formative years of neonatology; we had to learn on the job and there was no one to hold your hand. It was tough; the hours were incredible; I’d work 96 hours on a good week and 120 on a bad week,” he said.

With ‘itchy feet’ and a desire to travel, Prof Tudehope completed his neonatal training in London, Ontario, San Francisco and Melbourne before returning to Queensland where he founded Mater’s Neonatology Department.

The department functioned as a one-man-show for almost 10 years, with Prof Tudehope the sole specialist in a department that was rapidly growing.

“Neonatology is a fascinating discipline which is predominantly intensive care and the other thing is that you look after the whole child; not just their brain, heart or bowel,” he said.

“I also think that obstetric hospitals are joyful places to work; of course there is a lot of heartbreak as well in our area but by and large, they are joyful.”

For three decades, Prof Tudehope and his team of doctors, nurses and surgeons at Mater were responsible for saving approximately 1000 lives every year—one of the best neonatal survival rates in the world.

Over the years that figure has grown to more than 2000 babies every year, with some coming from as far afield as Perth and Papua New Guinea for treatment.

Prof Tudehope and the team depart for China on 7 June 2013.

To show your support, visit Prof Tudehope’s fundraising page: www.everydayhero.com.au/david_tudehope

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