Anne Hailes: Jim Dornan an exceptional man and skilled medic who'll be sorely missed

Fifteen years ago Professor Dornan recovered from leukaemia and it left him with chronically poor lungs

PROFESSOR Dr Jim Dornan’s death came suddenly to most of us and it was a shock. This man who brought thousands of babies into this world, who gave confidence to frightened young mothers and sorted out complex gynaecological problems was beloved of so many.

Not only women but their menfolk too; he loved family – his own and those he attended. He was the go-to man for interviews on the subject and when I was making a series of medical programmes I called on him for help. A Woman’s Lot addressed HRT, PMT, menopause, periods, hysterectomy and Dr Jim had all the answers.

However, one area was vital to the story and that was the birth of a baby. He and I talked,. He asked, what day would suit to come along with the film crew? Magic to my ears: “You come first and see a birth just so you know what happens.”

I did. Lovely young woman welcomed me into her room, Jim explained she would have to be induced and that everything was ready. Then it all happened, the baby was coming of his own accord and there was great excitement, I was flat against the back wall terrified something would go wrong but it didn’t. All the mother kept saying was: “Can Anne see OK.” What I saw was Jim Dornan in action, his encouragement, his humour and above all his skill.

:: So the Thursday of filming arrived

We met Jim at the front door of Royal Maternity, a hug and the news that the ‘candidate’ had unexpectedly gone into labour and delivered her baby. A moment of disappointment but only a moment because the next question was: “Would a Caesarean birth be any good?” And so we met Mary Logan, great with child and delighted to share her joy with us.

Jim explained that as Mary was only 4’ 10” the baby was unable to travel through the birth canal in the normal way and to avoid distress to both, an epidural injection would be administered to numb the lower part of her body and the Caesarean performed.

And so David Logan came into this world and there was no one more delighted than Jim Dornan. To him every birth was a miracle; indeed, his book was entitled An Everyday Miracle: Delivering Babies, Caring for Women – A Lifetime's Work.

The reaction to the programme was amazing, thanks to Jim’s positive information. He and the colleagues he involved in the making of A Woman’s Lot helped very many women in their approach to the birth process and indeed to being a woman coping with many physical traumas throughout their lives.

Follow-up to this story

Twenty-one years later Mary Logan contacted me to say that baby David was about to celebrate his ‘big’ birthday and was off to New York with his guitar and a spirit of adventure. I phoned Dr Jim and told him and he was delighted. “I’d love to meet him and wish him well,” was his reaction and so we all met at The Irish News for a small celebration. So the story came full circle.

During his brilliant career Professor Jim had his own traumas to face: the death of his first wife, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and finally Covid-19. He once told me in another life he would have been an actor and he was delighted to have a role in a number of crime dramas shot locally. He was proud that his son Jamie became a respected actor and lived his father’s dream.

Our paths crossed often, the last time at a petrol station on the Ravenhill Road. He was in great form, as handsome as ever and we laughed a lot, remembering times we worked together. He was generous with his time and his talents, he did favours and asked for no reward and I don’t suppose we’ll ever know the influence he has had when working with medical organisations around the world.

Condolences to his wife, his children and his grandchildren on the loss of such an exceptional man.

What a week it's been

Dominated by the grown-up royal babies and Oprah. Harry and Meghan threw their toys out of the pram with style, sitting in the portico of a sumptuous mansion, quite right for this high-profile threesome.

However, my criticism lay with the interviewer who, rather than probing, went "Wow" and "Whaaat" at intervals as Meghan spilled the beans on life in and around the palace.

It seems she has a track record of upheaval – her father, her staff, her friends said to have been sieved, with only a few remaining. She's even turned her back on Piers Morgan, much to his chagrin, it would appear.

Why did Oprah allow her to ramble on without asking the questions we all wanted to ask – back it up with evidence. She was doe-eyed and hesitant as if to say, 'I don't want to let the royal family down but I feel I have to tell you Oprah...'

I laughed when someone remarked, “Look at her dress, even the seagulls don’t like her!”

But it’s easy to be critical from a distance. My sympathies are with Harry who seemed uneasy; what a dreadful experience to lose your mother in such a way and walk behind her coffin in the full glare of the world.

As a military man he had a role in life, he was respected and well liked. Perhaps life is rather aimless now as he tries to find his feet in America. My hope for him is to join his family for the unveiling of Diana’s statue with some understanding being reached and love restored.

Will Meghan travel with him? I suspect not. He talks about his brother and father being trapped but how trapped is he stuck in Los Angeles with a wife who doesn’t want to know and children who’ll remain with her so can he ever return to the bosom of his family?

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