‘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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