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Years on kidney dialysis didn’t hinder civic service

Fabian Marsden was born in Sydney on May 11, 1954 to Hugh Marsden, a surgeon and Patricia Hunt a nurse. He was the third of six children and not long after his birth, his parents moved the family to Wollongong to open a private hospital, St Anthony’s.

Fabian Marsden as a young student.

Fabian Marsden as a young student.

Fabian attended Edmund Rice College until 1972, when the family moved back to Sydney and Fabian transferred to Waverley College. He attended the University of Sydney, studying pharmacy and it was there that he met his wife to be, Wendy, a fellow student. At university, he served as treasurer of the Sydney University Pharmaceutical Association.

Fabian and Wendy were married at the Swifts in Darling Point in 1979 and soon after they opened their chemist in The Rocks, which they ran for more than 30 years. However, not all was plain sailing because it was not long after this that he went into renal failure and lost the use of both kidneys.

He lived with end stage kidney disease for the rest of his life, surviving on dialysis until his first cadaveric kidney transplant at age 27, which lasted for 19 years. He then returned to dialysis for many years until his second kidney transplant which came from his brother, Sebastian, a live donor. Over the course of his life, he was on dialysis for a total of 12 years and had about 50 surgeries from associated complications.

Despite the incredible toll of dialysis, two renal transplants, countless operations, recent cancer diagnosis and the struggle of everyday living that confronted him, he never complained about discomfort or pain. Rather, he was incredibly stoic, devoting his life to helping others by performing his many civic duties, never wanting any accolades for the work he did, just working quietly behind the scenes.

On his passing Meg Jardine, Associate Professor of the faculty of medicine at UNSW Sydney and head of renal trials, George Clinical, the George Institute for Global Health, wrote: “Our conversations with Fabian have led on to the world’s largest dialysis quality improvement study, which is ongoing.

Fabian and Wendy on their wedding day.

Fabian and Wendy on their wedding day.

“Fabian offered clear and level-headed advice throughout and he helped make the study a reality as one of the chief investigators on a multimillion-dollar clinical trials and cohort research grant. Fabian canvassed opinions on the research from other consumers through the positions he held and so was able to share perhaps the best peer-review a study could have, that of people who live with dialysis therapy. His fellow steering committee members will miss his contributions.

“Fabian was also involved in the development of a global trial at an earlier stage. Calciphylaxis is a rare, serious and painful complication that can affect people with advanced kidney disease. He was disturbed by the impact of the condition on people who experience it and offered to do everything he could to support research by supporting the successful research grant as an investigator.

Fabian Marsden at his pharmacy.

Fabian Marsden at his pharmacy.

“He has contributed to the trial development as a steering committee member and as co-chair of the trial consumer committee. Most recently we have been working with him and others on materials to help patients understand the research in preparation for trial launch later this year. We will miss his input.”

Fabian adored his wife, his family, his very large extended family and his hobbies – those being vintage cars, genealogy, skiing and spending time with his grandchildren. He was a very keen skier and encouraged his children to participate. His youngest son, Hugh, became a professional snowboarder and was ranked second in Australia in slopestyle at the peak of his career. Fabian encouraged Hugh by accompanying him on his first snowboard lesson. Both students ended up with snow everywhere but developed a new passion.

Fabian died from pneumonia with complications on July 9 at the age of 66.

He is survived Wendy, children Emily, Sam and Hugh; five grandchildren, and siblings Damian, Veronica, Lucille, Sabastian and Jonathan.

Emily Marsden

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