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A conversation with the Emeritus about older kidneys

C.G. Winearls
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/qjmed/hcn134 143-144 First published online: 9 December 2008

He had guessed the sender from the handwriting on the envelope immediately. It would have ‘decorated’ his undergraduate physiology essays.

The card within had confirmed his surmise.

        Prof H. Methuselah DSc

    Emeritus Professor of Human Physiology

Dear Homer,

There is something personal I would very much like to run by you. How would this Saturday morning suit? Say 10.30? I’ll have the Fair Trade coffee percolating.

Yours ever,


Homer is not his real name but he had been allocated this soubriquet (in honour of Homer Smith the famous renal physiologist) by Henry, his physiology tutor, because he had expressed a special interest in the kidney. He now practises as a clinical nephrologist.

This had not been an invitation but a summons.

The coffee poured, Henry had come straight to the point.

‘It's about Hetty (his wife). Seems she has a problem in your department. Our new GP, a Dr Quoff or some such name, wrote to say she has Stage 3 Chronic Kidney Disease. This came as terrible shock to us both, especially as she feels absolutely fine. Lord knows how he managed to make the diagnosis – he had not even seen her. Apparently it was detected when she had a blood test for her annual TSH check. She wants to cancel our trip to Australia to see the grandchildren for fear of falling ill away from home. Of course the travel insurance …

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