Spreading warmth in deed and kind

“Friends in need are friends indeed”-- however clichétic the saying maybe -- aptly fits a group of people, Friends of the Accident and Orthopaedic Service of the National Hospital in Colombo, who not only provide essential equipment but also give moral support to patients who are rushed to this life-saving unit.
Kumudini Hettiarachchi reports

The operating theatre is “freezing” and many are those who are rushed after an accident or an incident who have to be taken there immediately for that life-saving but lengthy surgery. During long surgeries at the Accident and Orthopaedic Service of the National Hospital in Colombo, with loss of blood and other grievous injuries the severely cold operating theatre could send such patients into hypothermia.

Dr. Prasad Ariyawansa

This is where the two valuable patient warmers, donated by “our friends” amidst numerous other essentials come in handy, stressed the Director of the Accident and Orthopaedic Service, Dr. Prasad Ariyawansa.The patient warmer is a type of blanket which will keep the patient’s temperature at a constant level without allowing hypothermia to set it.

He is referring to the Friends of the Accident Service who have been an asset not only providing equipment such as patient warmers but also services by being there to hold a hand and give courage or even make that crucial phone call to relatives who may not know that a loved one has been brought here.

The strong bonds between the Accident Service and its Friends span over 25 years. At the monthly meetings we have with them, we give a list of our requirements and they strive to provide them, said Dr. Ariyawansa who has 438 beds under him. As many as 250 patients seek treatment at the outpatients department of the Accident and Orthopaedic Service daily with more than 110 being admitted. Patients are also transferred from all over the country as this is the referral centre for trauma.

Here they work 24 hours a day all 365 days of the year, with over 100,000 pateints being treated yearly, the figure rising with each year. The Friends of the Accident Service have been a strength and in the past year alone we have received much equipment and donations from them, says Dr. Ariyawansa.
Two fluid warmers were another donation, the Sunday Times understands. An accident victim, a man, woman or child, having lost a large amount of blood may have to be administered blood.

The blood is stored in the freezer and cannot be administered immediately but the victim may die if we have to keep the blood out of the freezer for it to come to room temperature. A fluid warmer does the job, says Dr. Ariyawansa. The still-cold blood sent through this warmer raises its temperature so that it can be administered then and there.

The patient warmer a type of blanket which keeps the patient’s temperature at a constant level without allowing hypothermia to set in and (below) a fluid warmer. Pix by M.A. Pushpa Kumara

The Friends of the Accident Service don’t stop short of providing equipment and items such as mattresses for trolleys, it is learnt. They also help with maintenance work. Pointing out that sometimes patients have to spend as much as 48-56 hours on a trolley till beds get cleared of those already occupying them, the Director says trolley-bound patients have been made comfortable by these mattresses.

The beginnings of the Friends of the Accident Service have been humble, with a few of the members being requested way back in 1985 by then Deputy Medical Superintendent Dr. K.N.K. Wijewardene and Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr. S.A. Ediriweera to clean up the Accident Service when it was located near the Coroner’s Court on Ward Place.

As the bonds of this group with the Accident Service grew stronger, they had inserted advertisements in the newspapers seeking professionals and businessmen in 1989, to come forward and assist this vital service. The rest, of course, is history, with the Friends registering as an approved charity and continuing their untiring efforts even after the Accident Service moved to its current location.

If anyone wishes to help please contact: Director Dr. Prasad Ariyawansa on phone: 2692534 or email: upulprasadariyawansa@ for more information.

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