Former patient Kelly Rodwell shares her memories of one of RPA's giants
The first time Kelly Rodwell met Dr Harry Kronenberg is etched in her memory.
“I was 14 when I first met Harry in the Emergency Department at RPA. That was on 9th April 1987. That’s more than 30 years ago,” Kelly, speaking from her home outside of Orange, in central western New South Wales, said.
At the time, she was in Year Nine at a high school in Orange and lived with her parents and younger siblings on a farm half-an-hour from town. She loved swimming, athletics and horse riding.
Her life was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APML) which is a rare blood cancer. Dr Kronenberg and his team treated her.
He was the founding Head of the Institute of Haematology at RPA.
“I remember being on a hospital bed in ward E 10 North and being told I had APML.
“I said ‘Will I die from this?’ and was told ‘Not if we can help it.’ I always remained positive,” Kelly recalled.
For the next eight months Kelly had chemotherapy at RPA.
“Harry was a big part of my life being sick as a child in the 1980s. He always wore his white coat. He was a tall and silent man. I always used to wonder what he was thinking.
“At the time, he was like a grandfather figure to me. I always trusted what he said and what he did,” she said.
When Kelly later went into remission, she continued to see Dr Kronenberg for routine check-ups until he retired in 2001.
She then saw Joy Ho, now a Clinical Professor at Sydney University and RPA’s Acting Director of Haematology.
Kelly always remained in touch with Dr Kronenberg.
“I liked letting him know how I was… as a patient and in life. I told him about getting married to my husband Scott and having our two children Lucy and Sam.
“We’ve been married 27 years and the children are adults now. I wrote letters to him at Christmas time and sent him photos. He would send me cards and we would chat on the phone,” she said.
Kelly visited Dr Kronenberg at his home in Sydney in 2017 and the two of them, plus Dr Kronenberg’s partner Robyn, reminisced over morning tea.
It was the last time she saw him but she regularly called Robyn for updates about Dr Kronenberg’s health. He’d been ill for a long time.
Dr Kronenberg died in October this year. He was 93.
Kelly and her husband Scott attended his memorial at RPA – a hospital he’d served for almost 50 years from 1953 to 2001.
He was Head of the Department of Haematology for most of this time.
Dr Kronenberg’s colleagues, including Professor Ho, his family and friends were also at the memorial.
“Harry was very special. He was a great man and his work in haematology and blood cancers should be well-praised. His legacy lives on through his work and his children,” Kelly said.