Gayan, the Good Samaritan doctor | Daily News

Gayan, the Good Samaritan doctor

Dr Gayan Danthanarayana
Dr Gayan Danthanarayana

The first Sri Lankan doctor who died from COVID-19 was Dr. Gayan Danthanarayana. He died while being on an ECMO machine at the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital. The incident is not only another COVID-19 death, but the first death of a Sri Lankan doctor due to COVID-19. A few days later, another medical practitioner passed away also due to COVID.

There are several other told and untold ‘stories’ connected to this single incident. Since Sri Lanka celebrated its 73rd Independence last week it is very important to know and understand all the stories because some of them are connected to the country’s 73rd anniversary of Independence.

It is good to take these ‘stories’ one by one in order to analyze them properly. First of all, the whole country should salute late Dr. Gayan Danthanarayana (32) for his great service towards saving the lives of innocent and poor infants, toddlers and children. He had tried to save the lives of his aged parents. This proves his love and care towards all human beings. He was called ‘the golden doctor who saved the lives of children’. As they say, the good die young. May he attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.

While this late doctor was on the ECMO machine at the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital, some media reported it as ‘something that should not be done’ and some journalists tried their best to find out details and sling mud on the health staff and this incident. But it did not happen on a large scale. The late doctor deserved to be treated using the ECMO machine because of the number of precious lives he had saved up to last month and the number of lives that could have been saved by him if his own life was saved. By now he had left this ungrateful society which does not deserve such valuable human beings.

What is this magic ECMO machine? Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO), also known as Extra Corporeal Life Support (ECLS), is an extracorporeal (outside the body) technique of providing prolonged cardiac and respiratory support to persons whose heart and lungs are unable to provide an adequate amount of gas exchange or perfusion to sustain life. The technology for ECMO is largely derived from cardiopulmonary bypass, which provides shorter-term support with arrested native circulation. The device used is a membrane oxygenator, also known as an artificial lung.

An ECMO machine
A normal ventilator

ECMO works by temporarily drawing blood from the body to allow artificial oxygenation of the red blood cells and removal of carbon dioxide. Generally, it is used either during post-cardiopulmonary bypass or in the late-stage treatment of a person with profound heart and/or lung failure, although it is now seeing use as a treatment for cardiac arrest in certain centres, allowing treatment of the underlying cause of the cardiac arrest while circulation and oxygenation are supported. ECMO is also used to support patients with the acute viral pneumonia associated with COVID-19 in cases where artificial ventilation or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is not sufficient to sustain good blood oxygenation levels.

According to media reports, this type of machine is available only at the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital in Galle and the Lady Ridgeway Hospital (LRH), Colombo. We remember during the Yahapalana regime that funds were collected from the public to buy a PET (Positron Emission Tomography) Scan machine for the Maharagama Apeksha Hospital. One ECMO machine costs only around Rs. 150 million. Now this late doctor’s father who is himself a doctor is trying his best to provide one or more ECMO machines to State hospitals with the support of donors. The country still does not have certain essential machines at State hospitals and we celebrated our 73rd year of Independence last week.

According to some recent media reports, this pathetic situation that existed in Sri Lanka during the past was explained by one of the friends of this late doctor. According to that friend, the State hospitals, ambulances and roads were in a dilapidated condition. There were not enough Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds for premature babies in difficult areas. The ambulances were just Toyota Hi Ace vans with an ordinary bed fixed inside. The roads had giant potholes. Travelling in an ambulance on such a road at night for a few hours with a sick infant struggling for life was not a picnic, he had stated to the media.

Things have improved during the past 73 years and especially during the periods of 2005 to 2015 and from December 2019 to now. But it is very clear that priorities had been mixed up during the past 73 years. The pathetic situation is that Sri Lankan people see the priorities only when one of them personally hits them hard. Otherwise, no Sri Lankan demands priority for anything that is essential to save lives. Any type of development should be connected to saving the lives of the innocent poor people. Fortunately today even a poor Sri Lankan who travels to a State hospital by a three wheeler can save his or her precious life because of the carpeted roads. The rich capitalists criticize the carpeting of roads while travelling along those carpeted roads in their luxury Intercoolers and V8s.

Our precious Motherland is indeed fortunate to have the current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who stated at the Independence Day ceremony that he will not let the country down in order to assist any businessmen who supported him during the Presidential Election with hidden selfish intentions.

Some of those ‘crooks’ who ‘invested’ money during the 2019 Presidential Election have started to hate this Government by now because they cannot implement their hidden agendas. Some of those businessmen ‘crooks’ openly criticize every step of the Government and some of them are in the health sector. They just pretend that they still support this Government by acting as traitors and spies in secret. But the patriotic people cannot be misled by anyone now. They can very clearly identify real patriots and fake patriots.

Dr. Gayan Danthanarayana was a foreign MBBS degree holder. Foreign MBBS degree holders in Sri Lanka lost their due recognition due to a single effort made during the Yahapalana regime. That was privatizing medical education. But this late doctor and his doctor father set an excellent example by standing by innocent poor Sri Lankans. The doctor friend who spoke to the media about Dr. Gayan explained the kindness and hard work of this late doctor. This late doctor had served in Ampara years ago. He had treated the sick children and all the others who attended his clinics with extreme kindness and care. It is a rare quality of any human being. This doctor had not worked for a modern private hospital in Colombo or gone abroad to earn money. Moreover, no Sri Lankan had spent a cent for the medical education of this real son of Mother Lanka. He had set an excellent example for all foreign MBBS degree holders in Sri Lanka.

The last burning question is whether aged doctors who are still in service and suffer from Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, etc., need to serve close to COVID-19 patients or suspected patients. Why cannot Sri Lankan health authorities assign such doctors for other safe duties while deploying young and energetic doctors to deal with COVID-19 patients and suspected patients? This should be possible because the country has an adequate number of qualified doctors.

Karapitiya Teaching Hospital

Health authorities should look into all issues in all connected areas in the health sector and address them without waiting until it becomes ‘too late’. Another severely neglected area is ‘risk communication’ of COVID-19. The people will follow all health guidelines all the time and protect themselves well from COVID-19 if ‘risk communication’ is done properly.

Some people still treat COVID-19 as ‘just another simple cold’ because of a lack of proper risk communication. The Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) officials repeatedly pointed out this issue to the health authorities during the past year from the very beginning of COVID-19 but it seems that something or someone prevents proper risk communication’.

Sri Lanka needs to save the health staff to save the public from COVID-19. Even a kindergarten child can understand this truth. Health staff ran away in other countries in fear of COVID-19 while Sri Lankan doctors and other health professionals did their duty towards people. But some ungrateful Sri Lankans did their best to put the lives of health staff in danger by hiding information and contaminating entire hospitals, wards, etc.

Sometimes this criminal act is still happening in some areas in the country. It seems no mechanism is in place to stop such deadly acts of some irresponsible Sri Lankans. Still some selfish Sri Lankans go out and have a gala time while waiting for a PCR Report or while undergoing home quarantine. Sometimes the wife comes to office while her husband receives medical treatment for COVID-19 at IDH. These irresponsible acts must stop. Sri Lanka needs to walk forward and not backward.