Leonard Bailey 1942-2019

May 28, 2019

Len Bailey, the father of paediatric cardiac transplantation, has died of cancer at the age of 76. Although born in Marland, Bailey graduated from Loma Linda University medical school in 1969. He spent some time as senior Resident at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, at a time when the speciality evolving at huge rate – Bill Mustard, George Trusler and Bill Williams were the leading surgeons. Bailey also noted that for a number of conditions, there was no surgical option, and the infants often died early after birth

He returned to a paediatric practice at Loma Linda in 1976, staying on the staff for the next 42 years. Over a number of years, his laboratory devised successful xenotransplants in immature animals. In 1984 he was in the world’s headlines for transplanting a baboon heart into a baby with hypoplastic left heart syndrome – the “Baby Fae” case. The child survived for only four weeks, and that particular field went quiet. But the work laid the ground for the first series of successful paediatric cardiac transplants, and Loma Linda became the leading centre in the world

A number of us visited him in 1990, and again in 1994, to see a programme which was the model of how to organise successful cardiac transplants in infants and children. We also had chance to see his wonderful manner with patients and their parents. He has been described as “one of the kindest people you could meet”, “a real gentleman” and a “gentle giant”.

Bailey had a wide repertoire in congenital surgery, and made significant contributions, but is best known for his influence in transplantation. He received the “Pioneer Award” from the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation in Madrid in 2006. A revealing interview with him can be found in the ISHLT Archives at https://ishlt.org/about-ishlt/ishlt-history-project/video-interviews?viewmode=0

He also had links with a number of centres and surgeons in the UK. In 2008 he gave the Rutherford Morrison lecture in Newcastle, and spent several days as the guest at a combined Newcastle/Great Ormond Street clinical meeting. His talk began memorably with a video of the helicopter approach to the roof of the Loma Linda Medical Centre when returning with a donor heart.

Leonard Bailey is remembered with huge affection by all those who knew him; his legacy in paediatric cardiac transplantation is with us in every day of our clinical practice

John Dark and Asif Hasan

Newcastle University and Freeman Hospital, Newcastle