Friday, March 4, 2016
A memorable patient
By Sanath Lamabadusuriya
Towards the end of 1991 when I was in Galle, as Prof. Priyani Soysa was due to retire, her post was advertised by the University of Colombo. I applied for it and was called for the interview which was on a Thursday. The previous Tuesday when I was seeing patients at the Cooperative Hospital, a girl was brought to me by her mother complaining that she had fainted in school. Her name was Rebelika and she was a student of Sacred Heart Convent. When I examined her I could not detect any thing abnormal and reassured the mother and advised her to be sent to school the next day. The next day (Wednesday) I was due to travel to Colombo for the interview. That evening when I finished seeing patients at the Cooperative Hospital, as I was leaving my room, Rebelika was carried to my room by her mother. She had collapsed again and I could hardly feel her pulses! I advised her mother to rush her to Karapitiya Hospital and drove to Colombo. As I was extremely anxious about her, the first thing I did on reaching Colombo was to ring the Karapitiya Hospital and inquire about her.(There were no mobile phones at that time) Fortunately on arrival she had been resuscitated and admitted to the ICU. I was very much relieved to hear the good news, because I feared for her life.
The next morning (Thursday) I went for the interview and was offered the post (I was the only applicant again!). When I returned to Karapitiya on the following Monday and went to the ward Rebelika had been transferred back to the ward from the ICU. She was completely normal by then. I was told that the patient’s father, who is a “Kathru” (editor), had wanted to see me. However I never met him. I sent Rebelika to the Cardiology Unit in Colombo and had her evaluated. She probably had “Sick Sinus Syndrome” where an arrhythmia develops spontaneously, without any warning signs and reverts back on its own. It was not possible to have diagnosed that condition, the first time I saw Rebelika.
Few months later when I was seeing patients one evening at the Central Hospital, in Horton Place, Colombo, (after having assumed duties in Colombo) a young boy was brought to me by his father, who was fair, short and had a grey beard. He was covering one hand with the Time magazine. The father told me that he wanted his son evaluated by me because his sister has been treated by me at Karapitiya Hospital. When I asked for the sister’s name, the reply was “Rebelika”!
When I asked for the father’s name, he said he was Victor Ivan, the editor of Ravaya. He was disappointed to hear that I did not read his paper and he offered to post it to me. He told me that his father had been a teacher, and has had an excellent library at home. Victor Ivan was a self-taught man who had read a lot of books available to him at home. One of his hands had got blasted when he was making bombs at home during the 1971 JVP insurrection. His “Nom-de-Plume” was Podi Athula. I wondered what would have been the outcome if Rebelika had passed away on the way to Karapitiya. Anyway, “alls well that ends well”. Rebelika’s brother was perfectly normal.
(Sanath has obtained Mr. Victor Ivan's consent for this article to be published. Sanath is in fact writing his autobiography these days and will be including this piece in it)