Lo­cal sur­geon gets a spe­cial hon­our

Order of Aus­tralia re­cip­i­ent left a legacy in the re­gion

Whitsunday Times - - NEWS - Luke Mor­timer luke.mor­timer@ dai­ly­mer­cury.com.au

THE first time Dr Al­lan Cook at­tended surgery he passed out, prompt­ing screams from his su­pe­rior.

Now, with more than 6000 surg­eries un­der his belt, the doc­tor of more than five decades has been awarded a cov­eted Order of Aus­tralia hon­our.

The Queen’s Birth­day hon­our was awarded to Dr Cook for his ser­vice to medicine as an or­thopaedic sur­geon.

Dr Cook worked as an or­thopaedic sur­geon in Mackay Base Hospi­tal for 33 years but now runs a con­sul­tancy prac­tice in Air­lie Beach with his wife, Pam.

He’s also worked with the now-de­funct Royal Aus­tralian Army Med­i­cal Corps, as a sur­geon in the United King­dom, at Mater Pri­vate Hospi­tal, Pioneer Val­ley Pri­vate Hospi­tal and as a govern­ment med­i­cal of­fi­cer, among other roles.

De­spite his tire­less work and con­tri­bu­tion to the com­mu­nity, the 79-year-old de­scribed the day the OAM let­ter landed in his mail­box as “sur­real”.

In fact, he and Mrs Cook are still car­ry­ing the let­ter around as a re­minder of the un­ex­pected hon­our.

“I thought it may have been ad­dressed to the wrong per­son,” Dr Cook laughed.

Re­fer­ring to where it all started, Dr Cook said he was in­ex­pli­ca­bly drawn to medicine, de­spite his fa­ther’s in­sis­tence he take up en­gi­neer­ing or sur­vey­ing.

“I did my sec­ondary school­ing at Rock­hamp­ton Gram­mar School and across from there is Rock­hamp­ton Base Hospi­tal,” he said.

“I just think I started look­ing at in a dif­fer­ent light, see­ing it for the first time and think­ing ‘medicine sort of ap­peals’.

“I guess it all worked out quite well.”

While that is cer­tainly so, Dr Cook con­ceded the first test in his train­ing didn’t go to plan.

“The first op­er­a­tion I ever went to as a stu­dent I passed out on the floor,” he said.

“I think this is a com­mon thing. And all I can re­mem­ber is the sur­geon yelling out at what sounded like the top of his lungs ‘fall back­ward, fall back­ward’ so I missed the pa­tient.”

How­ever work­ing as the only or­thopaedic sur­geon in Mackay later in his ca­reer, Dr Cook took to the role with gusto.

“You be­come psy­cho­log­i­cally able to cope

❝op­er­a­tion The first I ever went to as a stu­dent I passed out on the floor. — Al­lan Cook

with all sorts of things and deal with them, no mat­ter how con­fronting,” he said.

One of Dr Cook’s most mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ences was patch­ing up Proser­pine lo­cal Alf Casey, who was at­tacked by his pet es­tu­ar­ine croc­o­dile, Char­lene (or Char­lie), in the late 1980s.

“One day he was feed­ing her and she latched on to his arm and did the death roll and wound off all the flesh and his hand,” he said.

“I was at a Ro­tar­ian bar­be­cue down at the beach. I got this phone call to say I was needed at the hospi­tal.

“I asked what the prob­lem was and they told me the croc­o­dile bit his hand off. My friends said, ‘Cookie, you’ve got to be bulls**ting.’

“We man­aged to sal­vage the arm from the el­bow up.”

Dr Cook, who ceased surgery in 2007, said his favourite part of the job was help­ing pa­tients get back on their feet af­ter crip­pling in­juries.

“It’s amaz­ing how some peo­ple bounce back, re­cover from in­juries and keep such a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude. And I think that is half the bat­tle in re­cov­ery, a pos­i­tive out­look,” he said.

Dr Cook be­lieves the marks of a good sur­geon in­clude at­ten­tion to de­tail, com­pas­sion, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and an op­ti­mistic at­ti­tude.

Mrs Cook said she was “so proud she could burst” and that “the OAM couldn’t go to a more de­serv­ing, won­der­ful per­son”.

PHOTO: LUKE MOR­TIMER

BUSY: Or­thopaedic sur­geon Dr Al­lan Cook has been awarded an OAM for his ser­vices to medicine.

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