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The Sunday TimesPlus

6th April 1997



A day in the life of .....

From ward rounds to household chores

By Roshan Peiris

DR. de LanerolleBaby patientDr. Lakshman de Lanerolle (left). The critically ill baby awaiting heart surgery (right).
He is a simple, unassuming man with an intense human touch with no pretensions, though he could well afford to be. He is Dr Don Lakshman de Lanerolle, the Director of one of Sri Lanka’s best equipped hospitals, the Sri Jayewardenepura hospital.

The doctor is an unconventional man. "I get up everyday at 5 am and my wife who is also a doctor, gets up at 4 am. We have no servants and we have two school going daughters, one seventeen and the other ten.

"My wife busies herself with cooking and I do the ironing, set the table and bring the food to the table and help with the washing up." Can you believe that this man with both local and foreign medical qualifications admitted candidly, "I even help by scraping coconut".

My female colleagues, when I told them this, were thrilled with the idea and were wondering what strategies they could use to lure their husbands to do the same. But my male colleagues were by no means amused. Even those outside office I mentioned this to, looked as glum as old world Quakers and an unseemly grunt was their only reply.

I am sure the women’s lib people might even consider giving him an award. But to Dr Lanerolle, it’s all in the days work. "I also pack the children’s lunch for them. We have a simple breakfast of rice, eggs and kirihodi. Sometimes we do eat bread as well.

"When I get back from hospital around 1.30 for lunch I am very tired and I just heat some food from the fridge and eat it. I get home around five thirty in the evening.

I am in my office daily between 7.15 and 7.45 in the morning. The first thing I do is to read the midnight report, this is routine so that I am aware of critical cases and in which wards they are," he said.

"Next you find me walking round the hospital. I believe in going to problems rather than waiting for the problems to come to me. And believe me, in a large hospital they are many and varied. It also gives me the opportunity to visit as many wards as I can, especially those wards which I find in my midnight report have critical patients. I am also there when the night staff leave and when the day staff come on duty," Dr. Lanerolle said speaking of his work at the hospital.

As he walked with us, one noticed that he went through a whole gamut of emotions, watching both staff and patients. His ward visits are a daily routine with him. He greets patients by name and talks to them as if they were his old friends. One could see how much it cheers up a patient to see the Director so friendly. He even talks to the relatives. Dr Lanerolle has an unconquerable cheerfulness and a charm of manner when he greets people, be they doctors, nurses, patients or their relatives.

He walked in with confident steps to the clinic complex where a large number of patients waited patiently to hear the verdict of the doctors on their nagging illnesses. Here too, he has a smile for one and all.

The security men too, he greets. The day we went, a new group had been appointed to take the place of those who had worked for the last two years. "I did wish them good-bye and saw that the new men took their places,"he said.

We went with him on his round of the infant cardiac cases awaiting surgery. It was a moving sight to see a child just one year and nine months awaiting an operation. ‘Teftralogy of fallots’, said an attractive young lady doctor. I hope I got it right. She has to undergo a complicated operation for four heart conditions. The crying parents stood by. One could only pray for this little bundle and wish her well as she innocently slept in her bed totally unaware of her grave condition.

A baby in the next room was recovering from a similar operation and that made one feel better.

There was the medical ICU, "Please remove your foot wear"reminded a prominent notice and one entered with the doctor into an immaculate ward. The doctor turned to a young man in a blue shirt who greeted the doctor with a smile and folded hands. "So now your fiancee is better," said the doctor "go in and speak to her." The girl,of twenty two years smiled at the doctor as if he was an old friend and then at her loyal fiance who stood by her when she was unconscious with a viral infection of her nervous system. The prognosis was not a cheerful one but the young man never gave up hope and now after one and half months,she has improved and was getting better daily, said both Dr. Lanerolle and the doctor in charge.

We finally walked into the Dialysis Unit again where the notice reminded us to remove our footwear in this sterile ward. There the doctor spoke to the nurses inquiring after patients where a machine did the work of the kidneys by purifying and sending back the purified blood back to the body.

Dr Lakshman Lanerolle takes his work seriously and does not believe in sitting in his office and warming his chair. Everyday he gets back from ward rounds to find problems awaiting him from critical patients and their distraught relatives. "Problems here cannot wait as in other offices for they concern the lives of people. There will be something to do with water supply as we had last Saturday when we have to quickly give orders to store water or it may be the Central Air-conditioner not functioning affecting operating theatres and wards with critically ill patients especially the ICUs".

In the evenings, he has a cup of tea and goes for a walk along the gravel road near the Parliamentary complex. ‘Then I think out and plan for the next day." With all his hospital duties he finds time to help his ten year old daughter with her fancy dress. She is supposed to represent an ‘alien’ and he takes over cutting out cardboard, paper and glueing things together.He also helps his daughters with their home work. "Currently my seventeen year old daughter at Ladies College is supposed to participate in a debate and today I have to help with some debating points," he says.

These are his daily chores which he accepts as routine. "I boil water for washing up and help my wife with the dinner. After all she also does a strenuous day’s work as a doctor." What a nice man. I could not help telling him that his mother Yasa de Lanerolle had indeed brought him up well.

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