In Memoriam: Dr Anneke Meursing – de Jong (1946-2020)
Paediatric Anaesthetists from all over the world have joined with great sorrow to bid farewell for our colleague and friend – Anneke Meursing-de Jong. Her contributions were of the utmost importance for the development of our speciality in Europe.
Anneke was a colleague who offered friendship and ties. She was able to bring us together for common understanding creating a friendly circle of anaesthesiologists engaged in the care of children. Anneke´s talent for friendship and communication and her devotion for those who needed support, be that sick children or less well-off countries, combined with her courage and organizational skill, made her succeed with very difficult tasks.
Anneke was born on 15th May 1946 in Holland. She completed her medical school in Leiden. Anaesthesia was not her first choice; she specialised in tropical medicine and went to Uganda. After two years she decided to return to Leiden for anaesthesiology training. The Department of Anaesthesiology in Leiden did not offer paediatric training for which she went to the Sophia Children’s Hospital in Rotterdam and decided to stay there. Within a few years she was appointed as a chairperson of the department. The beginning was not easy for her; fortunately she had already made contact with Doctor Gordon Jackson-Rees; recently retired but never tired. He came over as a Visiting Professor of the Rotterdam University. Anneke had many contacts and friends all around the world. Together with Jack Rees she managed to create a modern department of paediatric anaesthesia, the first high-level teaching centre of the speciality in Holland. Europe had two formally organised paediatric anaesthesia societies; the French speaking ADARPEF and for the UK the APAGBI, both initiated in the sixties. At that time the APA was a small national society that could only accept few overseas members but Anneke became a member 1983.
At an APA overseas meeting in Toronto a European club was discussed informally and it was agreed that it was needed, but who should do the work to realize such a club? Ursula Bauer from Switzerland pointed at Anneke; “You are young enough, why don’t you take that job upon you?” Back home, Anneke discussed the possibility of organising a European Congress of Paediatric Anaesthesia. She received enthusiastic support from the Chair of the Department; Professor Wilhelm Erdmann and from Jackson-Rees. Sparkling with energy, Anneke organised the first European congress of paediatric anaesthesia in Rotterdam August/September 1986. At that time Europe was not an open region. It was indeed a problem to find and communicate with colleagues over many borders. Anneke made a tremendous work; 450 colleagues attended the Congress! Two business meetings were organised under the guidance of Gordon Jackson Rees. It was unanimously agreed that forming a federation of national societies should be aimed at. Three years later-1989 – Anneke organised the second European Congress – again in Rotterdam – the Federation of European Associations of Paediatric Anaesthesia (FEAPA) was constituted. Two years thereafter – 1991 – the core team of FEAPA succeeded to release the first issue of the journal “Paediatric Anaesthesia”. In the following years regular congresses/symposia were hosted by the FEAPA; in Liverpool (1993), Paris (1997), Helsinki (2001), Cologne (2005) and Warsaw (2009). It was at Warsaw meeting appropriate that FEAPA was converted into a membership driven European Society for Paediatric Anaesthesiology (ESPA).
Anneke became deeply involved in the activities of the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiology (WFSA). She served first as assistant secretary and then as Secretary (1996) and President (2004).
In 1999, being more and more absorbed by international activities, Anneke stepped down from the chairmanship of paediatric anaesthesia in Rotterdam and was appointed – with support of the Dutch government – Associate Professor of Anaesthesia at the College of Medicine, Balantyre, Malawi. She spent four years in Malawi training and organising. After two robberies and with increasing health problems she retired and came back to the Netherlands.
In 2009 she married Koos de Jong, with whom she found love and happiness till his untimely death in 2015. They had then travelled between the Netherlands and the Dutch Antilles; her beloved place. Anneke continued travelling between her two homes till her last days.
Since 2010 Anneke experienced serious health problems with joints and spine, which stopped her international activities. Nevertheless, she did her best to keep up with current events. She attended the ESPA Congress in Rotterdam in 2019 where she gave an excellent and well received lecture on history and future perspectives of the European paediatric anaesthesia society. She compared paediatric anaesthesia to the Dutch dykes’ system; “it needs our attention for the simple reason: we can save lives with it”
The last year was very difficult for Anneke. Severe pain stopped her activity and tied her to bed. In her last mail to us, she wrote that she experienced “excruciating pain making me short of breath and affect the feeling and strength in both my arms”. Having no medical option, she passed away quietly in Bonaire, with her dignity preserved and her close friends at her side.
Anneke has received many honours. She was made an Honorary Member of the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland, an Elected Fellow of the Royal College of Anaesthetists in London, an Elected Fellow of the College of Medicine, Anaesthesia, South Africa, and Honorary Member of the Nederlandse Vereniging voor Anesthesiologie, Standing Member of the German Society of Anaesthesiologists, Holder of the Diploma of Honour of the Federation of European Associations of Paediatric Anaesthesia and Honorary Member of the European Society for Paediatric Anaesthesia.
It is so important to have a friend in life, warm, helpful, unconditional. Anneke was a unique friend warm, bright, always ready to smile and to help.
See you, dearest friend, down the road….