Last Update: 30/01/2013 17:48
Percy Walter Bryce Pease FRCS (Eng) FRACS
2 September 1937 - 13 February 2012
It is with sadness we note the death of Percy Pease. Percy (as
he was universally known) was an institution in Paediatric Surgery
in New Zealand and the South Pacific. He was the first full time
Paediatric Surgeon in New Zealand and established Paediatric
Surgery as a specialty here.
Percy was a "coloured" South African, born in Alice, a small
town in rural South Africa. Through perseverance and determination,
and in the face of poverty and many hardships, he went to Medical
School. Despite the difficulties he encountered from entrenched
apartheid, he graduated. The casual insults and denigration he
experienced as a young man instilled in him the determination to
treat and console the disadvantaged.
He worked initially in Baragwanath hospital where he was exposed
to, and thrived on a wide and demanding clinical load. That
experience influenced his approach to clinical problems both in New
Zealand and the South Pacific. Percy trained as a paediatrician but
his qualifications were not recognised in South Africa.
Percy became involved in the ANC and knew such luminaries as
Bishop Tutu. The ANC protected him as best they could, but Percy
was arrested for his political activities but was released. Percy
realised that he was in imminent danger of re-arrest, and he
crossed the border from South Africa to Swaziland, leaving all his
Percy worked in the Hlatikulu Hospital in Swaziland from 1968 to
1970 where he developed an interest in surgery. He was responsible
for the clinical work in the hospital, but as they only had a
single handyman, Percy was also responsible for the maintenance of
all the plant and equipment. It was a skill he had developed as a
child, and which was to remain with him all his life. He maintained
many cars that had long since passed their use by date, and used
his skills to maintain his house and garden. Percy married his wife
Sandra in Swaziland. They established and maintained a very close
and loving relationship all their married life. Sandra died just
nine weeks before him after a long battle with illness.
Percy next moved from Swaziland to England and gained his
qualifications in surgery before working at the Birmingham
Children's Hospital. It was while he was there that he found the
opportunity to come to New Zealand.
When Percy arrived in Auckland he recognised that children with
complex needs were looked after by adult specialists. He did not
recognise such boundaries and set about ensuring that all children
were looked after by paediatric specialists. He was determined to
provide a proper paediatric patient centred service. His reputation
as a clinician and a surgeon grew and he began to attract children
from throughout New Zealand and then from the South Pacific.
Percy had a gregarious personality and a philosophy that
encouraged cooperation and respect in the treatment of patients,
and so was able to maintain strong relationships with clinicians
from around New Zealand and with the parents of patients as
The original children's hospital in Auckland was called Princess
Mary and it occupied the site of the current Ronald McDonald house.
It had been built as a hospital for American servicemen wounded in
Pacific operations. It had an expected life of only 5-10 years but
lasted 50. Percy was one of the original team of clinicians who
were determined that children deserved better than that. They
campaigned in the face of considerable opposition for a proper
children's hospital. Resistance to their plans from many quarters
thwarted the original vision, but Starship was the result of their
Percy was a founding member of Variety, the children's charity,
in New Zealand, and remained involved for the rest of his life.
Percy was their medical advisor, and was instrumental in
establishing and funding the mobile ear clinic programme together
with numerous other activities. He received Variety's highest
Percy took part in the annual Variety Club fundraising event
(the 'Bash') for many years. The Bash always travels through back
roads and small towns. It was like a royal tour with Percy. He
would know at least one person in every town, he could also
remember the names and conditions of children he had operated on,
and he could remember their families.
Patients from the South Pacific started to be referred to
Princess Mary and Starship hospitals. Percy made an initial trip
funded by Auckland Rotary with some paediatricians. He realised
that many of the conditions he was being referred could be looked
after in the first instance, in the islands if the local surgeons
could be supported and up skilled. He made trips to Fiji, Samoa and
Tonga, sometimes as part of NZ Aid, but also at his own expense. He
always used the resources available to the locals. He taught and
encouraged them and established robust relationships with them so
difficult clinical problems could be properly looked after with
best interests of the patients and their families at heart.
Percy also encouraged local surgical trainees to consider
paediatric surgery, and is responsible for many locals entering
that specialty, some with international recognition.
Percy was a loving husband, father and grandfather, a loyal
friend and a man with a vision of a better world for its children.
Percy was passionate about the care and welfare of children. He was
determined to play his part in providing that care, and we are the
better for it.
Dr Chris Chamber FANZCA
Paediatric Anaesthetist, Starship Hospital