Paediatrician known for his work in Scotland and India

Born: September 4, 1936;

Died: August 12, 2018

DR KRISHNA Murari Goel, who has died aged 81, was a paediatrician known for his work in Scotland and India. For many years, he was based at the Royal Sick Children's Hospital in Yorkhill, Glasgow, and initiated and developed paediatric rheumatology services for the west of Scotland, but he also worked in India where he highlighted the plight of youngsters desperate for basic medical care. He wrote a moving diary about his experiences, which was published in The Herald in 2004.

Dr Goel was born the youngest of five children in Agra, India, to devout Hindu parents who used their limited resources to fund their children’s education. His early medical training in Lucknow made him acutely aware of the poverty, high morbidity and mortality in mothers and children he found there and he decided to devote his career to paediatric medicine.

His mother tongue was Hindi and his command of English good. Inspired by reading the first edition of Practical Paediatric Problems by James Holmes Hutchison (published in 1964), he applied and was accepted for a registrar post with Professor Hutchison starting in October 1964.

He arrived at Abbotsinch airport in Glasgow penniless, having spent the £5 in his pocket for overnight accommodation in London, and was met by a taxi driver organised by Dr Hugh Park, superintendent of the Yorkhill Royal Hospital for Sick Children and Queen Mother’s Maternity Hospital.

Dr Goel set to work immediately having been given free hospital accommodation and a small subsistence cash advance until his first salary payment. The warm welcome had a lasting effect on him, particularly when coupled with his initial disbelief that he could treat any child according to their illness without first asking how much money their families could afford to pay.

Dr Goel worked with Professor Hutchison and Dr Robert Shanks thus forming a critical link between Glasgow’s neonatal services at the Southern General Hospital, Rotten Row Maternity Hospital together with the Yorkhill co-located Queen Mother’s Maternity Hospital and Royal Hospital for Sick Children.

Dr Goel subsequently devoted much of his medical writing to the promotion of the Hutchison tradition and for example in 1996 he played a major role in the publication of Children’s Medicine and Surgery as well as a new edition of Practical Paediatric Problems.

Collecting information on the causes of Asian childhood rickets and the development of an effective rheumatology service were Dr Goel’s main research projects. He was responsible for the development of a world class paediatric rheumatology service for the west of Scotland which became a recognised speciality and part of the Scottish Clinical Speciality Network.

His report entitled Nutrition Survey of Immigrant Children in Glasgow (1974-1976) was published and distributed by the Scottish Home and Health Department as Scottish Health Service Studies No. 40 in 1979. The report gave a classic detailed account of the nutritional deficiencies identified and the high prevalence of rickets in the Asian community. Dr Goel created films and booklets in languages relevant for the people at risk and subsequently showed that complementing chapati flour with vitamin D brought about a dramatic reduction in “Asian Rickets”. After his retiral, he tried hard to reactivate these measures which had relapsed but were needed to reduce the high prevalence he found in the new immigrants from Asia and Africa.

In 1967 Dr Goel met a student nurse named Joyce McMillan in the casualty department at Yorkhill. Later that year Joyce was placed in the ward where he worked. Joyce, a committed Christian, shared with Dr Goel her love of gardens and gardening. Thereafter, they formed a loving and formidable team during the ensuing 51 years.

A major expression of Dr Goel’s love and compassion for the care of sick children and their families was when he decided to found the West of Scotland’s Children’s Hospice after visiting Helen House, the world’s first children’s hospice created by Sister Domenica in Oxford. A similar East of Scotland fund raising team had assembled, largely driven by Nancy and Jack Blaik together with their son Danny. Endell Laird, editor of The Daily Record, said he would help raise funds for the building of Scotland’s first children’s hospice. It was agreed that it would be built in the East of Scotland. Rachel House was built in Kinross and later Robin House in Balloch. However, Dr Goel always believed that three Scottish centres were needed and next helped to create a domiciliary home visiting team based in Inverness.

Joyce and Krishna married in 1992 and in 1993 bought Eredine House on the banks of Loch Awe as a place of rest and support for those who needed it. Together, they lived there and for ten years were kept very busy with their guests including Duke of Edinburgh volunteers, Capernwray Bible School students and French volunteers. Dr Goel initially challenged Joyce on her religious assertions but began to read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. His next problem was to find people in the church to discuss the Bible stories with him.

When they sold Eredine House they set up home in Balloch. From there Dr Goel felt the need to make a return visit to India. They both volunteered to work and visit the Christian Medical College Vellore in south India and Ludhiana Christian Medical College in the north.

After their return to Balloch Dr Goel wrote a critique of his experiences for The Herald. In essence he found that health provision in India had greatly improved but the poorest had two or three times the morbidity and mortality of the better-off due to lack of access to clean water, safe housing, sanitation and adequate nutrition.

In the diary he kept for The Herald, he wrote about one distressing case: "I visited Bethesda Hospital where I helped with a particularly complicated case of rheumatoid arthritis.

"The child was in terrible pain, unable to walk or use his arms and hands. His parents had to take him to the toilet, feed him and change him. Anti-inflammatory drugs were given to reduce the swelling and pain. Seeing the hope and trust in the faces of mothers and fathers has been truly humbling. There is only medical care in India for those who can afford it.

"What makes it worse is that, with help, these children, who are mentally bright, could be leading normal lives, going to university, getting married and having families themselves.

"What I am doing is a drop in the ocean compared to the kind of help these youngsters deserve, but it has left me with an indescribable feeling to be able to give something back to the country of my birth from which I took so much in my formative years."

On return from India, Dr Goel and Joyce moved from their Balloch home and garden to their final retirement home in Helensburgh. They loved the welcoming environment they found in their new home, garden and community. Every day Dr Goel would say “We need to cherish these wonderful moments”.

Together they wrote and published three books. The first in 2015: The Plants of the Bible and their Medicinal Properties; next in 2016: Some Great Scots, and third in 2017: Some Flowers, Fruits, Herbs, Birds and Animals of the Bible. All proceeds from these books were donated to CHAS and Glasgow City Mission.

It was whilst on holiday together in Oban that Dr Goel died in his sleep. Joyce had exceptionally kind support from the hotel staff. A burial at Cardross cemetery and service in memory and thanksgiving held in Cardross Parish Church were conducted by the Rev. Margaret McArthur. The church was packed to overflowing and a retiral collection raised a large donation for CHAS.

Dr Goel’s love and infectious shrieks of laughter will be greatly missed by those children and families he cared for, as well as his colleagues, friends and family. Joyce and Krishna had no children. Dr Goel has a large extended family in India. Dr Goel inspired, and through his writings continues to challenge and inspire, all who care for children.