By Emil van der Poorten –
Last week I provided readers with my observations of the Jayewardenepura Hospital (hereafter JWPH) and its external realities, as a visitor. However, since that little description, replete with comparisons between Rajapaksa’s equivalent to Dubya Bush’s private army in Iraq– Blackwatch – Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Ltd. (RALL), events took a personal and very serious turn.
Let me say at the outset of this narrative that my, admittedly limited, observation of the Intensive Care Unit of that hospital, the HD Unit and a room in the paying section occupied by my partner didn’t suggest anything resembling incompetence. On the contrary all the support staff, of whatever description, appeared caring and competent, something I have observed to be the rule rather than the exception in our grossly under-funded health care facilities. Every one of them appeared to be prepared to “go the extra yard” to ensure the comfort of patients and the peace of mind of visitors connected to the patient. And that is no mean feat under any circumstances.
That said, the patient whom I was visiting was subjected to an experience that certainly rivaled, if not beat, that of the little boy who recently had the wrong leg operated on.
The Cardio-Thoracic surgeon had responsibility for a very major piece of surgery on a patient who was extremely weak and had, in addition, to her heart condition waged a long standing battle with diabetes and asthma. Not the ideal start to something like this.
In any event, after a short sojourn in a room that was comfortable, with people around her who ensured what peace of mind was possible for someone with a life-threatening condition, she went into the operating theatre and, thereafter the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Cardio Thoracic Unit. After about 24 hours in the ICU, she was transferred into the HD Unit (and don’t ask me what “HD” stands for because I neither know nor care!).
She appeared to be making appropriate progress and the surgeon assured me that the surgery itself had been successful but, that with older people with a plethora of other health problems, one shouldn’t be making predictions of an overly-optimistic kind.
I was satisfied that my partner was in good hands and in God’s hands as well, given the fervent prayers and vows her friends were making for her recovery!
The surgery was on the 1st of March and I was compelled to spend some time in Colombo which, to me, is not just purgatory but hell itself, with its overpowering, heat, dust and clamour. No matter, there are things that are more important than personal comfort.
One of the things that occurred at the time my partner entered hospital was that she was paid a visit by probably the most powerful person in the Jayewardenepura Hospital hierarchy. He had apparently walked into her room after having used his influence to have a bigger and better room provided for my partner on the prompting of a relation of mine who was an extremely close friend of his. Suffice it to say that my going to this man for a favour of any kind was as likely as that place down below freezing over. In short, I did not wish to have any contact whatsoever with people of his ilk. And I know his track record, much of which, since Mahinda Rajapaksa was deposed, is probably in the public domain.
What is significant, in retrospect, was the fact that he had entered my partner’s room and with a quizzical expression on his face, said, “Don’t I know you from somewhere?” My partner’s response had been something to the effect of, “You should, because you’ve visited our home in the company of the person who prevailed upon you to do me this favour.”
As innocuous as that exchange might seem, what I find fascinating is the fact that his next statement was that “I thought (My cousin) X had said he wanted this done for the wife of one of his brothers” That worthy’s first name sounds much like mine, except that it begins with a hard consonant and not with a soft vowel as mine does! (I trust that that attempt at subtlety doesn’t fly over the heads of any readers!)
I didn’t place too much importance on what I considered to be a trivial exchange at the time.
However, what unfolded later has “given me pause,” as that old cliché has it.
There was at least one more visit paid by this dignitary to my partner. Very cordial and “nice.”
The surgery was on the 1st of March and I paid my twice-daily visits until the 5th, when, in order to avoid any danger of infecting someone recovering from major surgery, I made sure that me and a developing sore throat didn’t go anywhere near the patient. On the 5th, one of my partner’s visitors told me that a person who seemed on the road to recovery was now unable to sit in bed, up weakened by terrible diarrhoea and pain.
It transpired that she had been administered Metformin, a diabetes control drug and an antibiotic of some description.
Neither of these prescribed drugs and their administration are, in and of themselves, of earth-shaking significance, except that she had stopped taking Metformin a considerable time before because she had a huge adverse reaction to it and was being treated with insulin only. She was allergic to the antibiotic.
She was administered both these drugs despite the fact that she had specifically informed the doctor (?) on duty at the time about the seriously adverse reaction she had to them.
In my damned near 4-score years on this earth, where I have had more than a passing acquaintance with the medical services on three continents, I have never encountered anything like this.
What made this near-tragic event enter an even more disgusting space was the fact that, when they got wind of the fact that I was going to make an official complaint to the head of the Jayewardenepura Hospital asking for an early response to my it, they felt I shouldn’t because the patient could be victimized because I was raising s..t!
Does one need a better illustration of the change that is alleged to have occurred since January 8th 2015? Same corruption, different names. And, in some cases, the same names.
I expect that this event will be, like everything from Rakna Arakshaka’s navy to Lasantha Wickrematunge’s murder, kept simmering on a back burner until everyone tires of it and begins to wonder whether they imagined the events, in the first place.
Of course it is not beyond the realm of possibility either that I will receive the usual “form” letter informing me that “the matter is under investigation” followed by some inane rubbish indicating that no further action is possible/necessary.
There is also another option: deny the whole mess and claim that my partner was not administered the medications in question and/or that she has made up this whole story. Far-fetched? Think back to the last days at Nandhikadal, the fate of the four doctors in the area being strafed, bombed, subjected to multi-barrel fire and marine artillery after which they were taken into custody and then put before a “media conference” to recite what were, very obviously, a pre-rehearsed script. Check out, also the circumstances around the post-mortems that were supposed to be held on those Action Contre leFaim employees at Mutur who were executed (there is no other word for it) in the most brutal manner possible and you should have a fair idea of what would await any attempt at “external intrusion” by someone like me!
However, as one who has always held to the dictum that, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” here’s my plea!