Esther Clift is a Consultant Practitioner Trainee in Frailty, and Vice Chair of the BGS nurses and AHP Council. She is undertaking a Doctorate in Clinical Practice at Southampton University on the uptake of exercise by older people. She was inspired by an interview with Dr Frankland on the Today Programme, and went to ask him about his own use of exercise.
‘I just think he should have told me, I’m not stupid!’ – Dr AW Frankland reflects on his introduction to Strength and Balance exercises.
Dr AW Frankland was born the year the Titanic sank, and started medical school in Oxford when Stanley Baldwin was Prime Minister. He was supervised by Sir Alexander Fleming at St Marys and is described as the ‘grandfather of allergy research’. His daily hour long supervisions with Fleming never included discussing patients – ‘he was a pure scientist, who wanted to talk about science.’
Fleming overshadowed his two colleagues, Florey and Chain, by his willingness to engage with the media, although all 3 shared the 1945 Nobel Prize for Medicine, Frankland explained. Fleming remained suspicious about the role of allergies and made Frankland change his contribution to a chapter on antibiotics –‘ well you can’t argue with a Nobel Prize winner!’
Frankland is responsible for the Meteorological Office daily pollen count for hay fever suffers, helping them plan their day, which is mirrored in Australia. His biggest career regret was when asked to consult with the new President of Iraq in 1979. He was coughing and suspected asthma. Dr Frankland reports he had no asthma symptoms but was smoking 40 a day. He advised him to give up, which he did immediately – ‘things might have turned out differently if I hadn’t given him that advice!’ – he was of course speaking to Saddam Hussein.
What has this got to do with exercise and frailty?
Dr Frankland describes a busy life. He enjoyed athletics and playing rugby in his youth, but undertook no formal exercise in his later life, and certainly none once he hit 80. He was however, still very active travelling the world as an internationally renowned speaker. He recalls sport being a key part of the daily routine, as Prisoners of War in a Japanese camp, early on in the war.
Dr Frankland visited a geriatrician after being disturbed with debilitating night cramps for a number of months. The consultant referred him immediately for a 12 week course of strength and balance training with his local physiotherapy department.
He says it revolutionised his confidence and has held his deteriorating mobility at bay. He continued attending the clinic for the whole series of exercises, and now undertakes them daily at home. He says the compelling knowledge of the therapists and their follow up visits has kept him motivated. He was a little irate that his referral had come about through, what he felt, was an unconnected contact with the geriatrician. ‘Why are we all not told about this?’ he asked. ‘Anyone who has the mental capability to be doing it, should be! I just think he should have told me, I’m not stupid!’
Dr Frankland is looking forward to walking the herbaceous borders in Regents Park, near his home, now the weather is warmer.