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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Untold Stories

This was posted as a comment by Sanath Lamabadusuriya under the Appreciation on Prof. Rajasuriya written some time ago by ND (Nihal) Amerasekera. I decided to publish it as a separate post because of two reasons. Firstly, it is quite some time now since ND's Appreciation on KR was posted and it is unlikely that the majority of viewers would go back to read comments under old posts. Secondly and more importantly, it is much more than a mere comment and in my opinion, an interesting story yet unheard by many. I for one, had not heard it before. So, I have posted it as an "Untold Story" on this blog.

Sanath writes....

I did my internship in the Medical Professorial Unit at the General Hospital, Colombo (GHC) from May to November 1967. My co-house officer was Russel Paul, who was my room mate as well, at the Main Quarters for one whole year. In the post internship year, Russel and I were together again at Chest Hospital, Welisara. I joined the University as a Lecturer in Paediatrics on 1st April 1969 and Russel came back to GHC as a Registrar in the Professorial Medical Unit. We used to do joint studies until he emigrated to the US some time later. As you can appreciate, we were indeed very close to each other.

Dr Oliver Peiris was a Senior Lecturer in the Prof unit and David Chanmugam was in the female ward. The Registrars were, H.B. Karunaratne,  P.H. Billimoria and Soma de Silva. Mr. L.H. Mettananda (former Principal of Ananda College) was a patient during this time and he was terminally ill with cirrhosis of the liver. One day, KR. asked me who was on call for the next weekend and when I replied that I was on call, KR was happy. It was probably because Russel was a Catholic and I was a Buddhist. He told me that if Mettananda dies, not to mention cirrhosis of the liver as the cause of death in the death certificate. So I mentioned "Liver Failure" as the cause of death.

Towards the end of the internship, KR called me to a side and showed me a letter. He said that PH  Billimoria had applied for a Commonwealth Scholarship and had requested for a reference. He had mentioned in the reference "PHB came to work with me on such and such a date as a Reader and he worked with me until such and such a date". I told KR that it was  grossly unfair by PHB because he was the hardest working registrar out of the three. Nevertheless, PHB proceeded to UK to be trained in Neurology. He returned about 2 years later after over staying for about a week. When he reported for work at the Ministry of Health, the Director of Health Services happened to be KR.  PHB was served with a vacation of post notice. Although PHB protested, it was not withdrawn and PHB continued his journey "Down Under" where he is still domiciled. Dr George Ratnavale  retired or resigned soon after and J.B. Peiris who returned at about that time was appointed as Neurologist GHC.

My second half of the internship was with Dr. P. R. Anthonis, Senior Surgeon, GHC. Both KR and PRA were excellent clinicians and what I learned from  both of them during my internship, helped me to mould my future.
I returned to Sri Lanka after post graduate study leave on the 1st of January 1975 and reported for work on the 2nd of January. When I visited the Colombo Medical Faculty, I was happy to see KR's silver coloured Borgwaard Issabella car parked in the quadrangle at the  usual place close to the canteen. I proceeded upstairs and met the Dean, Prof  S, R. Kottegoda and when I told him that I was going to meet KR, he told me that KR had collapsed that morning in the MD examination hall, and had been admitted to GHC. KR died the same day  and I regretted very much that I did not meet  him after being  away for 3  years. Later, I heard that KR was eager to see me when he had come to know that I was returning to the country because not many were returning home during those difficult days.


  1. Sanath
    Thank you for that insight into the life of a complex personality. I like your account as you laid down the facts allowing the readers to make up their minds. I met HB Karu many years ago in Florida when he was recovering from heart surgery. I remember Russell Paul with much affection. Recall the fine ward classes with George Ratnavale and Oliver Peiris. The little surgery I know I learnt from PR Anthonis. David Chanmugam I remember for his ball head. For an expat living in exile those memories mean a lot.
    How time has flown!!

  2. Although I did read the comment earlier, it was good to refresh my mind. I agree with ND that we had very good teachers. Oliver Pieris was mentioned and he was a person I greatly admired not just for his clinical skills but for his more mature attitude to students who her treated as mature adults and not pimpled school boys unlike some Dons. Russel Paul was one of our brightest and he had such a sad ending as we all know. Soma was very fond of me and we got on very well. I disappointed her at the Finals because she fully expected me to get a Distinction, which I did not get! I never realised that PHB became a Neurologist and that we lost him because he was given such a raw deal. All in all, a very interesting read.

    1. Mahen
      No one expected me to get a distinction hence I didnt disappoint anyone. What a comforting thought !!
      There is so much more to life than those awards.
      We love you with or without a distinction for being a thoroughly decent, multi-talented gentleman.

    2. Rest assured ND. This fact never kept me awake at night! It was just a memory brought on by the mention of Soma's name. Thanks for your most generous comments.