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Neurosurgeon who was globally renowned for work during Troubles

 

A neurosurgeon who was involved in pioneering treatment for victims of the Troubles has died while on holiday.

Ian Campbell Bailey was said to have passed away suddenly and peacefully in the Canary Islands, where he had gone for a break over the Christmas period.

Mr Bailey, who lived at Boa Island in Co Fermanagh, was 88.

A graduate of Trinity College in Dublin, he trained at King's College Hospital in London before emigrating to Uganda, where he set up a neurosurgical unit in the University of East Africa.

It was a region that was largely devoid of specialists in this branch of medicine at the time, and the influence of his development of the unit is still being felt today.

Mr Bailey came to Northern Ireland in 1974 to work as a consultant neurosurgeon in the Royal Victoria Hospital. This was a period of intense conflict on the streets of the city and the hospital quickly gained a worldwide reputation for its treatment of people injured by high velocity gunshots and explosions.

He, along with other consultants Derek Gordon, Colin Gleadhill and their medical teams were hailed by fellow doctors as putting Belfast neurosurgery on the global map.

One of the innovations developed by Mr Gordon and Dr George Blair from the School of Dentistry at the Royal was the use of titanium to repair head injuries caused by bullets or bombs.

The procedure, known as cranioplasty, was first reported in the British Medical Journal in 1974. Customised titanium plates were hydraulic-press-moulded to match the contours of a patient's skull, then attached by screws.

As well as being ultra-lightweight, the metal did not cause an immune reaction with tissue and was perfect for protecting the head from further injury. This was later to become the standard procedure globally for the repair and reconstruction of the skull.

That was only part of the pioneering research carried out by surgeons at the Royal at the time in the treatment of people injured in the Troubles, but it was one innovation that captured the imagination of the public as well as the medical profession.

Mr Bailey continued to work at the Royal until his retirement in 1995. A former colleague, John Gray, remembered him as a man who never succumbed to the pressures of his very demanding job.

He said: "Of all the people I worked with over the last 40 years, he was one person who I never heard raising his voice. He was a most gentle man and very kind and one who always saw the good side of people."

Throughout his life Mr Bailey was a keen philatelist, a hobby which grew in interest after his retirement, and he was said to have been the owner of an enviable stamp collection.

He is survived by his wife Ruth, sons Christopher and Michael, daughter Caroline, and grandchildren Matthew, Alice, Oscar, Freya, Oliver and Hugo.

Funeral arrangements have yet to be confirmed.

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