Heartfelt thanks to lifesaver Dr Mike

IT was a thank you straight from their hearts.As scores of children gathered in Ipswich Hospital's play room, they all had one common goal - to say a very special farewell to the man who has helped to save their lives.

IT was a thank you straight from their hearts.

As scores of children gathered in Ipswich Hospital's play room, they all had one common goal - to say a very special farewell to the man who has helped to save their lives.

Dr Michael Bamford, a paediatric consultant, is preparing to hang up his stethoscope after more than 25 years and there were no shortage of people wanting to wish him well at a surprise tea party organised by his colleagues.

Dr Bamford began working at the hospital in 1980, helping to set up the neo-natal unit before concentrating on working with children with cancer and heart problems.

In that time he has helped thousands of children and their families through life-threatening illnesses and more than 40 of them turned out to see him off.

From children less than a year old to ex-patients now in their 20s and 30s, they were united in their gratitude for his work.

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As 10-year-old Jack Staines, a former brain tumour sufferer, put it: “Dr Bamford is wicked! He more or less saved my life.”

Dr Bamford's colleagues agreed that his departure would be a great loss to the hospital.

Dr Jim Gould, a fellow paediatric consultant, said: “We've been working together for 22 years and I will be very sad to see him go. “He has maintained the highest of standards throughout the years he's been here. He really is irreplaceable.”

During the tea-party on Thursday Dr Bamford, 60, was presented with a bulging scrapbook filled with photos, cards and drawings from the many patients he has treated over the years.

He said: “I knew my colleagues were planning something but I had no idea it was going to be as big as this.

“The fact that so many kids have turned up is amazing.

“I've really enjoyed my years here. It's certainly kept me on my toes. The children don't stand for any rubbish and you can never get inflated ideas about yourself when they're around!

“I've worked with some fantastic people as well. They always put in above and beyond what is necessary.

“Ipswich is a first class hospital and I hope it stays that way.”

A keen birdwatcher and golfer, Dr Bamford said he is looking forward to devoting more time to his hobbies.

He also hopes to get back out to Mozambique where he is heavily involved with setting up new health facilities at Beira Hospital, which is twinned with Ipswich.

Weblink: www.ipswichhospital.org.uk

SEAN Ferrari-Edwards and his family were so keen to be at Dr Bamford's party that they travelled all the way from Addenbrooke's, where Sean is currently undergoing treatment.

Sean, 11, has neuroblastoma, which is cancer of the nervous system, and has been through months of gruelling treatment at both Ipswich and Addenbrooke's in Cambridge.

His dad Jason, of Ipswich, said: “He's had chemotherapy, blood transfusions, treatment for infections, all sorts. This hospital really has become like a second home.

“We really wanted to come to the party because Dr Bamford has done so much for us. He is the only doctor that Sean really trusts and opens up to. He's definitely helped to make it easier for him.”

Sean's mum Kirsty added: “He hasn't just been there for treatment, he's been there for the emotional support too for all of us.”

BROTHER and sister Evie and Jake Edwards spend a lot of time at the hospital as both of them have serious medical conditions.

Evie, 11, has TAR Syndrome, which causes her to have short limbs, while Jake, eight, suffers from cerebral palsy.

Their mum Sue, of Elmsett, is full of praise for the help Dr Bamford has given them over the years.

She said: “I'm part of a support group for people with the same condition as my daughter and Dr Bamford is our medical advisor.

“He has been amazing and will always find the time to travel to meetings halfway across the country. I think what all the parents here will appreciate is how much extra time he gives to people.

“He does not just stick to the nine to five.

“It won't be the same without him.”

JOSEPH Alcock, 11, has known Dr Bamford for as long as he can remember.

He was diagnosed with leukaemia and a blood disorder when he was just two years old, and relapsed when he was five.

It is now four years since he finished his last lot of treatment but his family, who live in Bank Road, Ipswich, say they will never forget the support they received from Dr Bamford.

His mum Anne said: “At times he has been like a second father to Joseph. Joseph has been lovely to him, but he's also been very nasty and played a few little tricks on him now and again.

“Dr Bamford has a wicked sense of humour and he was always there for us. You knew that something you needed or wanted to talk to him about you could just go to him. He's been a great support not just to Joseph but to all of us.”

WHEN Jack Staines, now ten, was 13 months old he was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

His devastated parents were told that, at best, there was only a 20per cent chance he would pull through.

His mum Jackie, of Ringham Road, Ipswich, said: “It was a very difficult time. He went through a year of chemotherapy and, thankfully, has been clear ever since.

“We still see Dr Bamford once a year and he has just been fantastic. He's a lovely doctor and it will be so sad when he's gone.”

Jack is now a fit and healthy ten-year-old who spent most of the party playing football with friends.

He said: “Dr Bamford's wicked! He more or less saved my life. I think he's brilliant.”

IT was not just young patients who turned out for Dr Bamford's party.

Many of the people he has treated over the years are now healthy adults leading ordinary lives.

Kevin Day, 19, and Astra Thorpe, 23, were both under Dr Bamford's care in the 1990s and say there was no way they would have missed his retirement party.

Astra, of Waveney Road, Ipswich, was diagnosed with leukaemia when she was eight-years-old, and relapsed at the ages of 11 and 14. She eventually had a bone marrow transplant which cured the disease.

She said: “There is no way I would have missed the party. Dr Bamford is just a very loving doctor. When he used to tell my parents I'd relapsed he would cry, he's not stern at all.”

Kevin, of Finborough Road, Stowmarket, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma when he was 11 and underwent treatment for the next few years.

Now working as a tax adviser, he said: “I was here an awful lot during that time, having treatment virtually every other day. I liked Dr Bamford because I could take the mickey out of him and he wouldn't mind.”