A Tribute To Dr Jim Antrobus

A Most Unlikely Hero

Dr Jim Antrobus (photo: supplied)

Dr Jim Antrobus (photo: supplied)

It is with infinite sadness that we share the news that Dr Jim Antrobus passed away due to complications of his cancer surgery in St George’s hospital in Australia on Thursday, 1 March 2018.

Shortly after 3:30pm South African time, his daughter Micah posted the following message on the ‘Team Jimbo’ Whatsapp group, that has grown steadily with friends, family and supporters over the last few weeks.

Hello everyone, thank you so much for the ongoing love & support. This has certainly been a difficult road, made all that much easier knowing we were not walking it alone – evident in this ever expanding whatsapp group. Not to mention those on email, phone call and and and…

Our favourite person in the world, Jimbo, Jimmy, Jimithy and more recently Ron has passed away.

Understandably we are all deeply saddened, never easy losing a legend and know each and every one of you share our pain.

This was certainly not an option for us, but we did wish for the best possible outcome – so be it as it may.

We certainly feel that we gave it our best shot, together with the help of so so so many people in the horsey industry who made the very best medical treatment available for Jim. The peritonectomy was exactly what Jim wanted. Prof Morris said if he could do it all over again he wouldn’t change a thing. Unfortunately Jim had renal failure intitially straight after the op, which never recovered and lead on to multiple organ failures.

Merle says he was very peaceful and not in pain.

RIP Jim.

There are truly no words that can ever do justice to Jim. You did not need to know Jim long to know him well. He was simply one of THE nicest, kindest, funniest and most engaging human beings you could ever have the privilege to meet.

He was also the most philosophical and accepting and had the most amazing ability to make the most of any situation. When, as the long-time resident vet at Maine Chance Farms, their Great Danes killed some of the farm’s prize sheep, Jim was told that the dogs would have to go. Merle dug her heels in, saying if the dogs went, she went too. So in his usual and entirely equitable way, Jim simply packed up and moved.

Jim Antrobus and family

Louw, Micah, Jim, Merle and Lee (photo: supplied)

He loved his wonderful family. His beautiful wife Merle, their two gorgeous daughters, Lee and Micah and latterly his son-in-law, Louw and as that story proves, would do anything for them.

Above all, Jim loved horses and they loved him. There can perhaps be no greater compliment paid to him than the fact that the mighty Jet Master, often known to be quite temperamental, accepted Jim as his personal physician without qualm. I was lucky enough to spend time with Jim during Jet Master’s illness and asked how he was coping having to share his star patient with all the international experts who were flown in to do the surgery. In typical Jim fashion, he was fascinated by the visitors and the procedure and entirely unphased about the team approach. “A few years ago, I received a call from another vet who was called in to consult on a horse I was treating. He asked whether he might not be treading on my toes. I said absolutely not. Firstly, I have small feet! And secondly, why would I mind? The more the merrier and the more help and advice we can collect, the better for the horse. Which is what it’s all about, after all.”

Merri Spratley, who had Jim vet a horse she was keen on, shared the following story about Jim’s report back. Jim: Hi, I am so sorry i have to fail Big Freeze on all four legs. Merri: WHAT?! Jim: Yes, i am so sorry, but he is such an awesome horse I want him for my daughter. So unfortunately he passes 100%, but if you change your mind he is mine!

For a relatively small person, Jim had the most enormous capacity for life and perhaps the thing I loved most about Jim is that he lived without the brakes on. Jim said and did what he thought and felt without reservation. He loved life in all its minute, fascinating and funny detail. He never failed to find a story to tell and even when he was delivering tough news, always found a way to break it in the kindest possible fashion. Horse folk are pretty resilient and self-sufficient, so by the time one has to call a vet, things are generally pretty stressful. However, in Jim’s case, you knew the cavalry was on its way and there are few who weren’t familiar with that feeling of relief when he arrived to deal with an emergency.

He was the most unlikely hero, but a hero he was to so very many of us.

When he received the terrible news of his illness last December, he marched in, found out as much as he possibly could, occasionally sitting and Googling some of the finer points with local physicians as they tried to get to the bottom of it. In the same determined fashion he found Professor Morris and St George’s hospital and then set about sailing over all the hurdles it would take to get there. There never was a single day of complaint at how patently unjust it was – just a relentless, cheery determination to get on and get it sorted out.

With his wonderful Merle by his side, they travelled across the world to get the help Jim needed and so many hearts went with them.

Again, Jim’s humour shone through the whole process, with him joking about the anaesthetist and applying his irreverent humour even to some of the more unpleasant procedures.

In trying to gauge people’s opinions of Jim, one breeder stated firmly, “a treasure. An absolute treasure!” and if he were looking over my shoulder, I can almost imagine Jim coming up with some quip that he will now be buried treasure.

Ai, Jim. We will miss you so very much.

Divine is probably something of a Capetonian vernacular, but if anyone asked you to describe Dr Jim, chances are you would say, he was absolutely divine.
And in many ways that is the most appropriate description. Not to get too denominational, but as one of Jim’s legions of friends and fans commented on hearing the news, Heaven must have been short an angel “and my ooh my it definitely got the best!!!”

Before Jim went into surgery last Wednesday, he sent us all a cheery message. “Thanks you guys, checking in now, chat later.” As always, downplaying things and trying to reassure everyone else that everything was going to be OK.

There simply are no words that can ever do Jim justice, but to borrow from A.A. Milne, how lucky we all are to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.

Thanks, Jim. Rest gently. Chat later.

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