A young doctor who still had so much to give to Sri Lanka, succumbed to COVID-19 today.
Dr Gayan Danthanarayana goes into history not just as the first doctor claimed by the virus in Sri Lanka.
He goes down in history as a doctor who was much needed – we lost him at a time when we needed him most.
We needed him because he didn’t think twice about serving the poor in the often tough rural areas with low facilities.
Where hospitals are ill equipped to deal with the stress and strain of taking care of the sick – yet those of the calibre of Dr Gayan always had just enough inspiration to go on serving.
In a community that often sees the bad before it sees the good, young doctors like Gayan give all of us hope – that the medical professional is as noble as we could imagine it to be.
That for every doctor who disappoints us, there are hundreds of silent yet dedicated medical professionals who make their calling still the most respected in the world.
Today, as the nation mourns the untimely death of a young doctor, social media is awash with heartfelt tributes to a young man whose life’s calling seemed to have been a passion beyond a mere job.
One post recalled Dr Gayan’s stint at the Ampara Hospital.
Often, an ambulance – not really an ambulance but a makeshift van with a bed, traveling across roads with more pot holes than the van could negotiate, would carry a sick child from a hospital without facilities in a rural area to the bigger hospital at Ampara.
Every time the van hits a pot hole, the tube on the breathing apparatus would come off and the attending staff would have to stop, light a torch and put the tube back in to ensure that the child would be able to breathe and make it to the hospital safe.
The nightmare trip taken through some of the most difficult terrain of the deep rural Sri Lanka, would end at the Ampara hospital where Dr Gayan waited with more than just medical help at hand.
He would reach out to the doctors and the staff who took the challenging task of bringing a very sick child through a perilous journey – once the child was taken care of, he never forgot to treat the accompanying doctor and nurses to a cup of tea.
The writer, a doctor himself, also noted that most of the children who were thus resuscitated and made well, would come back to see them with grateful hearts. They owed their very life to the commitment displayed by doctors the calibre of Dr Gayan.
Dr Gayan served in hospitals considered difficult, often attending to the needs of the rural poor, helpless villagers whose only refuge is in a hospital a million miles away from what we in the city perceive hospitals to be.
It breaks my heart and the hearts of every Sri Lankan to comprehend that a doctor of his calibre had to leave so soon.
It breaks my heart that a doctor who ministered selflessly to the poor had to be rushed from Ragama, close to Colombo and then to IDH before finally being sent to Karapitiya Hospital in Galle which is said to have the sole life support system for critically ill patients.
Maybe there is enough reason for us to come together to do something about it. That would be the best we could give in Dr Gayan’s memory.
Dr Gayan was also an accomplished musician who played his guitar – a smiling young man whose cheerful demeanor seemed to convey his zest for life, his dedication to his profession and to his music.
Let Dr. Gayan’s untimely death not be in vain.
Let it light a path of hope towards more ECMO units being installed in the island.
Let it open our eyes that if we come together as we did for the Cancer Hospital Project, we as a nation can raise the funds needed to put up another ECMO unit in a hospital easily accessible.