Officer and a Gentleman

Lucky Edit

Dr Lakdasa Dissanayake MS FRCS

An astute cancer surgeon, a strict disciplinarian great sportsman, first parachute diver SLAF & more than anything a wonderful human being. My mentor though I am a physician.

That fateful Thaipongal day, 14th January 1990 this dedicated surgeon who never ever took a public holiday off, on the insistence of his loving sons and family, postponed his cases for next day at Cancer institute Maharagama and accompanied his family and a friend’s family to the sea Beruwala-Bentota area. Cruel fate, of not only all the family and friends and his trainees, tragedy struck and country lost one of its most valuable sons in the sea.

I had the fortune of working with him at the base hospital Nawalapitiya as one of his two post intern house officers other one being Pushpa Yakandawala Dissanayaka.

That six months I learned not only surgery, but also empathy and many things about life. He was practicing surgery of Cancer of gullet Oesophagus a very long surgery, a three stage procedure called Ivor Lewis Oesophagostomy single-handedly. Though initially his success rate was not optimal, with time and experience he mastered the technique and was a saviour of many economically down trodden estate Tamils who were having a large number of these cancer due to their habits of betel chewing.

A man of very strict principles, never did private practice and it’s with his agitation with the ministry of health, extra duty hours’ payment was allowed for consultants too who were not doing private practice.

I remember once he was on his way to his home in Nugegoda on first day after a surgery of a cancer patient and half way at Avissawella he went to a telephone booth and called me to check the progress of the patient. I had to tell him there was a leak (dye leaking into a bottle) immediately he turned back and came straight to hospital to do the repeat surgery. That’s the level of commitment to his patients.

Once there was a very poor woman from Lindula didn’t do well after surgery and she was keen to die at home and in case she died in hospital to take a dead body to Lindula it would cost the family a fortune. So he arranged an ambulance to Lindula and both of us accompanied the poor woman to local hospital (as hospital cannot transfer patient to home) and got the DMO to admit the patient and discharge immediately and on the way back to Nawalapitiya hospital we dropped her at estate line home. That was a show of his humanity at its best.

The last time I contacted him was to get my bond signed as a guarantor for my overseas training, he was in PGIM and he was in a very happy mood as his first appearance as an examiner for a postgraduate exam, he never bothered even to ask me what’s the amount he was signing as a guarantor, that is the level of confidence and trust he had on me.

The number of incidents he helped me out and my family at Jaffna during war times will take so much space to write here. Even before I left the shore to leave for UK for training I got the worst news as a shock on a Thaipongal day that my Guru was no more.

Dear Sir, you will be always in my prayers and heart and Sri Lanka is so unfortunate to have lost you at such a young age under tragic circumstances.

May Your Soul Rest in Peace

Forwarded through Praxy by

Dr. MK Ragunathan

4 thoughts on “Officer and a Gentleman”

  1. Just a small note; I knew Laki Dissanayake, as we sat four seats apart in Med School, [ Because of Close alphabet last names], we were in same groups for sigs, ward classes & small group tutorials. Laki & Dr Ruthraj Edwards were Inseparable [ They sat next to each other.] . Never had a bad word for anyone, never boasted he was at a higher knowledge level than some of us. Always there to help, give explanation for a complex issue in studying. Such a dignified, down to earth person. He was a truly unique human being.
    May he rest in peace.


  2. Dr. Ragunathan’s account brought tears to my eyes.

    Yes indeed Laki was a gem among us ordinary folks. Although I knew Laki as a batch mate , was not closely associated with him. I have heard about his dedication to his profession and extraordinary kindness to his patients and their families through others sources.

    Apparently his wards were spotless. He made sure that all his patients felt comfortable being in a clean ward pre and post surgery.

    We truly lost a unique remarkable surgeon and a super human being.

    If he were alive today he would perhaps be a famous surgeon , well known in Sri Lanka and abroad.



  3. Ragunathan’s account of Lakdas would be endorsed without a shade of doubt by all who came to know him, more than anyone else ,his patients & their families. I came to know him more closely during our intern days at Castle St Women’s Hospital and he was such a live wire in the quarters. His compassion went well beyond most of us.
    Our cook , Brumpy, had a sore on his leg and he wanted to get treatment at Ayurvedic hospital in Borella. Lakdas discouraged him doing that and took on the task of doing dressings + antibiotics himself and fixed him up. His sense of humour was remarkable and he named Brumpy’s wife the “Cooks Joy”. Some of you may remember a brand of oil by that name in the 50’s. Unfortunately, Lakdas’s life was cut short and Srilanka lost a remarkable human being .


  4. It is said that “the good die young”. This says it all for a good friend like Laki. Yes, I knew him well because we sat next to each other through the years..He was a genuine friend. I often had meals on a Sunday with his family and whenever it rained he would come to pick me up to go to Med school as he knew that I would get wet on my motor bike.Due to circumstances beyond my control,I was suspended from attending lectures just before our second MB examination.I knew who were the ones to be blamed but did not squeal.!Laki, visited me every evening after lectures and went over with me of what happened that day.He was a good friend and I was very close to him during the time he was courting our colleague, Savitri Dantanarayana.Sadly, she too died prematurely.He was a great son of Lanka and would have enlightened the profession with his presence as a surgeon with empathy and skill, especially in these dark days.It is hard to imagine that he left us almost 33 years ago.I have lost touch with his family and do not know what has become of his son.! Eddie.


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