Leon Abrams

 

Leon Abrams was an imposing figure of a surgeon whose size was matched by his enthusiasm for surgery, innovation and a delicate touch crucial in the paediatric cardiac surgery aspects of his practice.

 

Though born in Leeds he moved to Birmingham in 1927 where he spent the rest of his life. He graduated in medicine in 1945 and after his surgical training he returned to the University Teaching Hospital, Queen Elizabeth in 1957 as a consultant in adult and paediatric cardiac surgery.

 

With this appointment he developed the new techniques necessary to deal with acute life threatening cardiac defects of the newborn. He was also one of the first surgeons to perform successful cardiac bypass surgery and urgent mitral valve replacement in the presence of acute endocarditis. He was also involved in pioneering work assessing the cardiac output response to exercise including himself as a volunteer.

 

However he is remembered most medically for his pioneering work in developing and successfully implanting the first variable rate pacemaker in 1960 with Ray Lightwood (an electrical engineer) that subsequently became the Lucas-Abrams pacemaker. A blue plaque is mounted on the wall of Birmingham University Medical School to commemorate this achievement. He also invented the Abrams needle used for many years to obtain diagnostic biopsy material from the lung parietal pleura.

 

A great and patient teacher who also found the time for his family and wife Eva, to whom he was married for 60 years. He also enjoyed sailing and was a member of numerous medical and non-medical external boards.

He retired in 1980 and despite suffering from a variety of health issues late in life, remained active and never lost his sense of humour.

 

He is survived by his wife and 3 sons as well as numerous patients, colleagues and friends whose lives he enriched.