Doctor Peter de Beer André’s personal physician
De Limburger, June 30, 2024, by Ronald Colée. Photo credits: Harry Heuts. Translation: Ineke, edited by Diana D. Le Peter de Beer travels the world as a personal physician with André Rieu: “The first thing I do when I arrive abroad is drive from the hotel to the hospital” He has a track record that you can't believe. Worked for Doctors Without Borders in refugee camps in Somalia and Sudan, was a company doctor for KLM in Tanzania, and has had its own travel clinic in Maastricht since 1997. In addition, Peter de Beer has been André Rieu's personal physician for 24 years. “He is my first priority. Because if André gets sick, the show cannot go on.” “When it comes to an artist with the fewest canceled concerts, André is at the top and holds that record tenfold.” Peter de Beer makes no secret of his admiration for the Maastricht orchestra leader. “Apart from the problems with his balance organs in 2010, I cannot remember a single concert that he had to cancel for health reasons. Until Mexico this spring.” According to De Beer, this was a sum of factors. “A tiring journey and the associated jet lag, the location of Mexico City at a high altitude, in combination with some flu-like symptoms. The fact that he then had to return home and cancel four concerts was very exceptional and something I have never experienced before.” The Hengelo (town in NL) native has been the tour doctor of the Johann Strauss Orchestra for twenty-four years. “In principle I am linked to André. He is my first priority. Because if André gets sick, the show will not go ahead. For the members of the Johann Strauss Orchestra, a solution can often be found in case of illness.” Tropical doctor After a long career as a general practitioner, company doctor, and tropical doctor, De Beer decided to start his own private clinic in Maastricht in 1997. A travel clinic where travelers could obtain advice about the required vaccinations for their destination and then have them administered the injections. “I still have that practice.” One day Rieu contacted him. “That was in 2000, just before he went to Japan for the first time with his orchestra. I had put a brochure in his mailbox stating that there was now a vaccination office around the corner. He invited me for a meeting at his home to obtain advice on how to prevent a large part of his orchestra from becoming ill while on the road. At the end of that same conversation, he asked if I wanted to go with him.” As a world traveler, De Beer was interested in that. “I worked for Doctors Without Borders for seven years in refugee camps in Somalia and Sudan, where up to a thousand new people arrived every day, and also as a company doctor for KLM staff in Tanzania. And now I have already visited 53 countries with André and his orchestra. I always say the world is my playground. I inform everyone about what is going on in the field of health and hygiene, what medical problems there are and what can be done about them.” Whooping cough He does that in advance. For example, the 72-year-old tropical doctor is often aware of an outbreak of measles, diphtheria, dengue fever, or whooping cough at the destination before it has even been reported in the media. “It's a cliché, but prevention is better than cure. This also applies on site: I want to exclude all risks. I will never rely on lists of the ten best hospitals on the internet, but will rely on my own judgment and that of doctors from my network. For example, the first thing I do when we arrive at the hotel is take a taxi to the hospital. To see how long it takes me. That if an emergency occurs, we can quickly get to the point.” De Beer recently visited the cardiovascular medicine department in Poland. “I usually have already made contact in advance by email and I ask them everything on the spot. Which doctor should I see for which condition and where, for example, is the stroke center in case of a stroke. In addition, I have also been visiting dentists lately for the same reason: to get quick and good help. André also gives me freedom in this because he knows that I don't go into the city to buy souvenirs.” De Beer invites his permanent colleagues abroad to visit the concert. This means he can always call on them. “Whether that is in Chile or Thailand. Crucial. Because good contacts – and the time savings this yields – can literally make the difference between life and death. I am continuously working on improving my global network and I now know exactly which city, which hospital and which doctor I need to visit.” Food Safety He also monitors food safety during the trip. “I advise – solicited and unsolicited – our own chefs or, for example, tell André that it is better that day not to go out to eat with the group but to have lunch together. Because you naturally want to prevent the entire club from becoming ill in a place where hygiene is less strict.” On tour, De Beer, married and father of two children, is responsible for a group of approximately 125 people. “The largest group I ever had to guide was 650 people, with crew and orchestra. That was in Australia. Then after a week I started having stomach problems myself. I went to a doctor friend in Adelaide who pointed out that an average GP (General Practitioner) there also has 650 people. “Voila, there you have your answer.” He was right, of course. Because we have been traveling together for about a quarter of a year. So you also have to deal with all the common ailments for a quarter of a year that they would normally go to their GP or consult a doctor's assistant for.” That is why a second doctor has recently joined us. “I have always multitasked on my own. But if you go to the US for seventeen days, you also have to be ready for seventeen days. Twenty-four hours a day. Because your help may be required one minute after arrival or one minute before departure. And everything in between. That is almost impossible to maintain on your own without sufficient breaks. I also sometimes want to sleep without my frontal lobe of the brain being alert.” Complete travel pharmacy If members of the orchestra become ill, it is important that they are treated as quickly as possible. “We usually don't have much time to look at it, because we often travel to the next destination the day after a performance.” To help the crew and orchestra, De Beer always carries a suitcase with the most important medicines. “In principle, this is a complete travel pharmacy that is so well stocked that I don't have to go to a pharmacy on the road. Because even in Germany, it can sometimes be difficult to get medicines dispensed.” In addition to these medicines, the Hengelo resident also has items with him to solve acute problems such as an epileptic attack, an anaphylactic shock, or tightness in the chest. Anyone who thinks that De Beer sits in a nice, prominent place in the hall during all concerts is wrong. “I take a tour of the venue in advance so that I know where the AEDs (Automated External Defibrillators) are, talk to the people at the local first aid post, and then station myself at the side, in front of, or behind the stage. So that I can quickly resolve a complaint if necessary. If I were to sit in the middle of the hall, I wouldn't be able to do that, because it would be difficult for me to move from my spot.” Kidney stones On average, he is asked for advice and assistance “on tour” between five and fifteen times a day. Whether someone suffers from kidney stones or has injured themselves in a fall. De Beer has everything with him to start initial treatment. “But I don't over-prescribe. I am very cautious about prescribing medications. In addition, I always refer them to their own GP when they return home.” The absolute low point in his career was the death of trombonist Ruud Merx in 2016 after a cardiac arrest in his hotel room in Leeds (UK). “When you know someone so well, it is an event that you will carry with you for a long time. But that is inherent to this profession. You have a front row seat to all life events in a person's life.” He obviously cannot go into more detail or discuss other specific incidents. “Anything can happen, the craziest things, but I am not allowed to say anything about that. Because discretion is my greatest asset. By respecting that confidentiality, I can actually help people. Even when orchestra members inquire about the well-being of a colleague, I keep my lips tight.” This job is never boring. That is why he will be ready again during the Vrijthof concerts that start on Thursday. On the side, in front of, or behind the stage “Solving unsolvable issues remains the best thing to do. And, André has always said that he will live to be 140. This means that I can continue to do my work for a while.”