Published: 10:43, 07 February 2022
| Updated: 11:46, 07 February 2022
The death of one of east Kent's most respected doctors and health campaigners has been met with sadness across the district.
Tributes are pouring in to retired consultant paediatrician Dr Jim Appleyard - including from former colleagues, the many families whose children he saved, and those fighting for a new Kent and Canterbury Hospital, where he worked for 27 years.
Dr Appleyard, who died on Saturday, January 29, aged 86 after a long battle with cancer, lived in Blean with his wife Elizabeth. They had just celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary.
He is credited with driving improvements in children's healthcare in east Kent, setting up both the special care baby unit and the Mary Sheridan Centre for child health assessment.
He was one of the original members of Concern for Health in East Kent (Chek) and joined many protests to try to prevent the downgrading of the Kent and Canterbury Hospital, including visits to 10 Downing Street.
"He was an extraordinary man who led a rich and fulfilling life in the service of others," said David Shortt, who chaired Chek from 2000 to 2013.
"You only had to be with him for a few moments to pick up on his humanity and compassion."
Current chairman Ken Rogers added: "Jim was a stalwart of Chek and an original member who first started campaigning with me back in 1996.
"He was always there to offer support and guidance to us and was a brilliant doctor, known the world over in his various roles.
"He will leave a huge legacy of care given to so many patients."
Dr Appleyard continued to fight for a new hospital in Canterbury, despite his failing health in recent years.
His passing has also prompted many former patients to praise his care and compassion.
"Lovely man. He saved my son's life and will be sadly missed..."
Writing on the Canterbury Residents Group Facebook page, Tracy Jarvis
said: "Such a lovely man. He saved my life and if it wasn't for him I wouldn't be here today."
Christine Kember added: "Lovely man. He saved my son's life and will be sadly missed."
Gillian Ryn posted: "Very sad. He was amazing when my youngest son was born six weeks early and had breathing problems."
But Dr Appleyard's expertise and passion to improve child health stretched far beyond east Kent, and he had a worldwide reputation in the medical world.
He was a past president of the World Medical Association and convened the group that presented the Declaration of Ottawa on the Right of a Child to Healthcare.
Speaking at his first address as president of the WMA in 2003, he summed up his view of the value of children's healthcare.
He told members children were a country's "most valuable resource" and should be put first.
"Children, he said, "suffer through armed conflicts and violence, through abuse, neglect and exploitation and through poverty.
"All governments should examine the impact of all their policies on the health of children."
Dr Appleyard was also Dean of Clinical Sciences at Kigezi International School of Medicine, based at Kabale in Uganda from 2000 to 2004.
His knowledge and expertise were widely valued, and he served on numerous national and international medical boards.
He had graduated from Oxford University and began his training as a doctor at Guy’s Hospital.
When he came to the Kent and Canterbury as consultant paediatrician in 1971, he immediately focused on improving the life chances of babies and young children.
Retired paediatrician Barbara Armstrong worked with him for 24 years and says his contribution to child healthcare, locally, nationally and internationally, was "absolutely huge".
"The facilities at Canterbury were very poor when he arrived but we had both worked in premier hospitals in the United States and he recognised how it could be improved," she said.
"He was the most kind, caring and considerate doctor who was still fighting for our hospital right to the very end...."
"I was working in the child health clinics when he came and was very willing to learn from him.
"Locally, he did an awful lot, building up facilities that did not exist, including the Mary Sheridan centre, which he was very proud of.
"It combined diagnostics, treatment and therapies in one centre for children and families.
"He also raised funds for it throughout the district. Working for the good of patients was his aim, and trying to incorporate all aspects of childcare under one roof.
"He had an international reputation and lectured all over the world, and was treasurer of the British Medical Association."
In 2012, Dr Appleyard criticised the move to close the birthing centre in Canterbury and focus the units in Ashford and Margate, saying the decision "failed to recognise the wider implications".
Fellow health campaigner Peggy Pryer said: "I first met Jim when I worked as a midwife at the hospital in the early 70s and had the benefit of his care as a mother and health visitor.
"He was the most kind, caring and considerate doctor who was still fighting for our hospital right to the very end."
Former chairman of the League of Friends to Kent and Canterbury Hospital Stuart Field - a retired consultant radiologist - was an ex-colleague who remained a good friend.
"He was simply an inspirational and very caring colleague who went out of his way to support his patients, staff and the hospital," he said.
As well as his wife Elizabeth, Dr Appleyard leaves a son, Richard, and daughters Suzanne and Lisa.