Lives of the fellows

Esther Christine Jessen

b.29 September 1953 d.31 May 2013
MB BS Newcastle(1983) DRCOG(1985) DCH(1988) MRCP(1992) FRCP(2000) MD(2004)

Esther Christine Jessen was a consultant community paediatrician in Northumbria. She was born in Shanghai, China, the daughter of a German mother and a Danish businessman, and the eldest of seven children. She was brought up in Hong Kong speaking English and German, before she returned to Denmark to complete her secondary education. After working for a year in Switzerland as an auxiliary nurse, she went to the London Hospital, where she trained as a physiotherapist. After qualifying, she decided to study medicine and enrolled at Newcastle University. There she met her first husband. She gave birth to a daughter the day before her part one finals, and sat the examination two days later.

After gaining her MB BS, she held house officer posts in Durham and then trained in paediatrics in Newcastle. During this period, as part of the national ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) study investigating the treatment of severe respiratory failure in babies, she examined the surviving children for neuro-disability and, using the Newcastle neonatal database, devised a practical tool for measuring functional disability in cerebral palsy.

In 1996 she was appointed as a consultant in community paediatrics by the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust. She was a well-organised and astute clinician, and an excellent and meticulously prepared teacher. She enjoyed working in multidisciplinary child health teams, and was liked and respected by her colleagues and patients.

In 2010, she developed weakness and wasting in her left hand, which proved to be the onset of motor neurone disease. She resigned from her NHS post and, with characteristic determination, sought to arrange her home to allow her as normal a life as possible. She continued to ride Carlton, an Irish draught horse, until a month before she died, and became secretary of the Morpeth branch of Riding for the Disabled.

She was survived by her second husband, David Crawford, whom she married in 1994, her daughter and son from her first marriage, two step-daughters, and two granddaughters.

David Crawford

[BMJ 2013 347 4468]

(Volume XII, page web)

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