The Healing-Cut for a Kidney Stone
‘Prisoner of War’ undergoes surgery at the Sri Jayewardenapura General Hospital
The Staff in the ward await my arrival and an exciting day ahead!
29th November 1994
I wanted to make a surprise appearance in my ward at the Sri Jayewardenepura General Hospital (SJGH) on the 29th morning. However, that was not possible. I had to call the ward on the 28th on arrival from Jaffna by aircraft informing them that I was sending a patient for admission. That was Somaratne who needed surgery for his kidney stone. The “cat was out of the bag” and the surprise element of appearing in the ward the next morning was out of the question. I informed them that I will be returning to the ward for my usual routine the next day. The staff in my ward including the doctors, nurses and others together with my patients had been very anxious and apprehensive as they had not heard from me for nearly two weeks. They were relieved!
A comment on my previous post “The Return Journey to Colombo” by one of the House Officers in my ward at that time says it all…
A reception in the ward to celebrate my arrival
The entire staff had gathered in the ward that morning to receive me in the ward once again. They were happy and also arranged a small party with cake and other typical Sinhala sweet meats usually served at local functions. The ‘mini celebration’ was the first item on the agenda that day. Luckily, there were no emergencies in the ward.
Doctors were confused about my route to Jaffna
When I left the ward on the 15th of November to embark on my journey to war-torn Jaffna, I had informed my staff and the doctors about my visit to the Jaffna Hospital to be an examiner for the final-year medical students of that faculty. Some thought that as usual, I was on my way to the Palaly High-Security Zone in Jaffna as I had made trips to that front. None were aware of the route that I had taken. I was also not aware of the entire route till I went on the journey. They thought that it was easy to get to Jaffna using the land route (A9) as I left on invitation.
A map of Sri Lanka with the route to Jaffna which they thought was the one I took had been drawn on a whiteboard in my consultation room. I had to inform them that they were completely off the mark and that if I had taken that route, I would not have been able to be with them that day. There was also an ingenious peace symbol where the Dove bird carrying a green olive branch was replaced by a stethoscope. Perhaps that was to indicate “medical diplomacy” and ethnic reconciliation attempted by a surgeon.
The correct route of my journey
There were no smartphones with a camera those days and I had to develop at least 10 Kodak film rolls (36 shots in each) which I had utilised with my Olympus camera on my journey. That took some time. There was no hurry, and all were able to see those photos over time. Today, these photos are historical.
Release of Prisoners of war given publicity
That morning I was surprised to read on the front page of a daily newspaper an article regarding the release of the two fishermen who were held prisoners by the LTTE in Jaffna. There was a brief description that they had medical problems and were handed over to the ICRC in Jaffna for their return to Colombo. There was no comment about the intervening party. But that did not matter to me as by then one had already gone home to Chilaw and the other Somaratne was in my ward awaiting surgery for a kidney stone.
The routine begins
With the ‘mini welcome ceremony’ completed we had to start work and get back to the routine of ward-rounds, clinics, and surgeries. There were plenty of patients in the ward awaiting surgery. There were also medical students and postgraduate trainees who needed my guidance as regards patient care in a surgical ward.
Somaratne, the “prisoner of war” was also in the ward. By now he had made many friends in the ward and many had come to meet him and talk to him to find out details about his capture by the LTTE, his release, and return to Colombo. He also received special attention in the ward. Somaratne, the little-known fisherman from Chilaw was now a VIP in my ward.
FROM VOP TO VIP IN MY WARD
VOP – VERY ORDINARY PERSON
VIP – VERY IMPORTANT PERSON
Somaratne had stones in his right kidney which caused him severe pain while in the prison camp and thus required admission to the Jaffna Hospital where I met him. We had to get on with the investigations with the view of performing the surgery on the earliest possible day. These were expedited and surgery was planned. He was given top priority on our surgical operation list. Further delay would have resulted in complications.
SURGERY – PYELOLITHOTOMY
The procedure to remove a stone from the pelvis of the kidney is called Pyelolithotomy. It was an open surgery where an incision was made in the loin with the patient turned onto one side. The kidney was approached, the stone was identified and removed after making a small incision in the pelvis of the kidney.
At that time there were no facilities to remove the stone using shock wave or minimal access techniques that are available today and performed by a specialist Urologist.
The operation was performed successfully by a GENERAL SURGEON
The Healing Cut
THE FINAL PHOTOGRAPH WITH SOMARATNE
The surgery to remove the stone from the right kidney was accomplished. Somaratne recovered completely without any complications. After ten (10) days he was discharged from the ward to be reviewed at regular intervals at the surgical clinic. He attended the clinic on two occasions and was not seen again. I hope he will remember the same as I do; the dangerous plight that he together with
As a doctor, I have tried in my little way to be the “salt of the earth and the light of the world” (Mt 5:13-14) With God’s Grace, I have made every effort to add flavour to the lives of others. I hope this light will shine before men so that they will see my humble work and give glory to our father in heaven.
Dear Reader, If you haven’t read my earlier story which is a continuation of this story, you can read it in this following link : ‘The Return Journey to Colombo’
You also might be interested in watching some of our other photo gallery links are given here : ‘WAR FRONT – 1’ – ‘WAR FRONT – 2’ / ‘PHOTO GALLERY – PICTORIAL JOURNEY OF SURGERY’ / ‘MY LIFE’ / ‘SPORTS’
Our Video gallery link: ‘Video Gallery’
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13 thoughts on “The Healing-Cut for a Kidney Stone”
Dear Dr. Goonetilleke, I am a batchmate of Ravi, living in Texas. I have read your earlier book about ten years ago and was very impressed and inspired with your contribution to the war torn country and humanity in general. A few days ago, Ravi mentioned about this blog of yours and I wanted to join it. I am very eager to read your writing on the events that you have gone through. In fact I share this blog with my daughter Samantha, who is a 3rd year Radiology resident at Cleveland University Hospital, as your accounts would be very inspirational and an example to ne a doctor who has the heart with the patients. Wish you all the best for writing more articles that will make many good doctors all over the world.
A nice ending to Somaratne’s journey.
Read with fascination the release of Somaratne and the subsequent surgery. The article on Nov 29, 1994 in the Island, does not mention your name, as the primary person responsible for the release of these two fisherman from LTTE custody. This is because you are not a politician, but a surgeon, who does his duty by his patients and his country!!
It is indeed a great story. So happy that everything ended with such a happy note.
You are indeed the Salt & the Light to the earth and to the medical Profession.
If not for your intervention, the Red Cross would have never known who were being held in custody by the LTTE.
Your struggle to return shows the LTTE were never concerned for the wellbeing of their people. If they were, your passage would have been made easier. In fact, without your knowledge, U had have visited the North against all odds.
Hence, You are not only the Salt & Light to the Earth and the World but to the entire MEDICAL PROFESSION.
Bless you a Healthy Long Life.
This story proves that when you decide on something you plan it so efficiently, nothing will stand in your way and the results are magnificent.
It was a great privilege to work with a kind hearted and dedicated surgeon like you. Reading your stories helps me to recall my nursing life situations at SJGH too.
A great surgeon and a humanitarian who is always ready to share his knowledge and experience.
All glory to God our Father who has worked through you.
Thank you .
DEAR DR. GAMINI.
I HAVE KNOWN AND KEPT COMPANY WITH MANY OF YOUR PROFESSION, INCLUDING PROFESSORS JERRY JAYASEERA AND CHUMMY SINNATHAMBY WHO WAS VERY CLOSE TO ME AND A ADVICER ,WHO WERE GOOD CHRISTIANS AND TEACHERS, IAM SURE YOU ARE ONE OF THEIR CALIBER. I HOPE AND PRAY THE DEPT. AND GOVT. WILL RECOGNISE YOUR SERVICES AND GIVE YOU RECOGNITION FOR THE GOOD WORK. SORRY SOMARATNE HAS VISITED YOU A COUPLE OF TIMES, BUT THIS IS LIFE ,LEARN FROM THE LORD AND THE 10 LEPPERS, IT IS A LESSON FOR ALL OF US. GOD BLESS YOU IN YOUR BLESSED SERVICE.VIVIAN
Amazing story, nice chronology. Thank you for taking us down that nostalgic memory lane.
It’s an unforgettable story. Thank you for sharing
You certainly are a great guy, and I am so happy that I managed to cross your path and get to know you even for a little while. All of us who have ever crossed your path are very proud of you.
You have also done our college St Joseph’s vey proud.