“A timely gift to little cancer patients” | Print edition

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By Kumudini Hettiarachchi

Despite numerous obstacles, including COVID-19, the pediatric unit at Apeksha Hospital is benefiting from a much-needed expansion of facilities thanks to a project initiated by Kushlani Amarasuriya in memory of his parents, well-known author Anne Ranasinghe and Professor DA Ranasinghe.

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Anne and Prof. DA Ranasinghe

A promise given and, unlike many others, kept!

It was the fulfillment of that promise made seven months ago that saw a simple ceremony with a very limited number – in keeping with the difficult times of COVID-19 – coming together on Thursday to light the traditional oil lamp.

“Timely and with the least inconvenience for our little cancer patients” is how Dr Mahendra Somathilaka, pediatric oncologist at Apeksha Hospital in Maharagama, describes him, as the “face” that has launched this project, Kushlani Amarasuriya, looks at it with humility surrounded by those who have supported it in many ways.

These facilities will be a boon to 600-700 new children who seek not only treatment but also help each year at Apeksha Hospital.

In honor of all the children who walk through the pediatric unit and to bring a ray of hope, the first wick of the oil lamp was lit by 12-year-old Hiruni Soysa, who had been in ward 16B in 2018, “where every bed was full”. Hiruni was here after being diagnosed with cancer and has now recovered.

The “face” behind the project, Kushlani Amarasuriya, talks about the work under the gaze of her husband Mahendra and Hiruni. Pix by Indika Handuwala

The expanded facilities, covering 2,218 sq.ft. (approximately 700 square feet per floor) in the pediatric unit are:

  • An additional fully equipped intensive care unit (ICU) with four additional beds, including one in an isolation room with adjoining toilet, to complement the four-bed ICU on the 2nd floor;
  • Increase in the capacity of the day chemotherapy unit on the 1st floor with 10 additional beds. This will prevent about 50 to 60 children who are there early in the morning (as early as 3 am) from waiting in a long queue;
  • A space with nine beds to complement the beds in Ward 16 on the ground floor equipped with furniture, saline racks and bedside tables;
  • Waterproofing, thermal insulation and several layers above, with a perimeter wall with rail for the roof of 875 sq.
  • Adjustment of the foundations of the building to allow the construction of a 4th floor.
  • Other facilities, including doctors ‘toilets, nurses’ toilets and dining room, nursing stations, storage rooms, toilets and showers, as well as upholstery (curtains and sheets) and food oxygen from the intensive care unit.

Rs if necessary. A $ 32 million project was funded through an inheritance from Ms. Amarasuriya’s late parents, especially her mother. Her parents need not be introduced, as they were prominent obstetricians and gynecologists, Professor DA Ranasinghe and prolific writer and poet Anne Ranasinghe.

Dr Mahendra Somathilaka lights the lamp

Funding came from Ms Ranasinghe’s will which specified that – 1 / 10th of the sale of the principal property her parents owned, the house they lived in with Ms Amarasuriya for many years, was to be used for the benefit of the children . and animals.

“I very much respect his wishes to think about the other children and animals we all love. She offered the same amount to all of us, a large family, ”Ms. Amarasuriya explains.

After passing many little patients, some with shaved heads, others terrified here for the first time crying or clinging to devastated relatives, the new sections are a haven of peace.

With the serene face of Lord Buddha in the pose of Samadhi being the first glimpse we have as we climb the last few stairs to the 2nd floor, the new intensive care unit beckons us – the comfortable beds prepared await their first patients with soothing blue and cream blinds. the Windows.

The crowded scenes in clinics and pediatric wards that Ms Amarasuriya witnessed when she began discussions with Dr Somathilaka in 2019 were a far cry from decades ago when she had volunteered here.

While Dr Somathilaka, a little skeptical as many had come before with promises, listed the needs of the little ones with the determination to increase the number of beds rather than build a new ward for lack of new staff, Ms Amarasuriya was ” impressed “that he never even asked for a chair for himself.

Detailing the path to all of these expanded facilities, Ms. Amarasuriya recalls how Dr. Somathilaka’s last plea was an increase in the capacity of the ICU.

“Although my mother’s funds had already been committed to three other projects by the time Ministry of Health approval was obtained for this project, I assured her that somehow the ‘USI will also be extended,’ she said.

Previously, approvals from the ministry had been difficult to obtain, although Ms. Amarasuriya’s original project proposal as well as the architectural plans, approved by the deputy director of Apeksha Hospital, had been submitted and approved by the courts for funds will be released in mid-2019.

Referring to this saga, she says the file apparently did not reach the ministry from Apeksha hospital or simply disappeared between October 2019 and March 2020, although she received a letter in October 2019 approving the project.

Then there was absolute silence, with Ms. Amarasuriya haunting the corridors of the ministry and meeting in early March 2020, the Minister of Health Pavithra Wanniarachchi who had ordered that the approval be granted in a few days on the filing of a new file.

Approval for the project had been granted on March 5 last year, but it was not yet …… architectural plans finalized and field works completed, as they were about to start work in October 2020, the Minuwangoda COVID -19 cluster had broken out, imperative postponement. Rising to these demands, the construction company, Isuru Engineering, had not been idle.

Taking numerous hospital-approved precautions, his “incredible” team, including disciplined workers from Kilinochchi, had started full steam ahead on December 10, unfazed by the entry restrictions and closely guided by the CEO and project manager Sanjeewa Kularathne and President Mahesh Pasqual. They had also removed the “stress and tension” from the site visits for Ms. Amarasuriya by doing their work efficiently.

Seeing the final product, observers can only imagine the difficulties the construction team would have had to overcome, along with the vital need to protect vulnerable and immunocompromised patients from dust and rubble.

Ms. Amarasuriya, meanwhile, was also very grateful for the honorary services of architect Asanga Samarasekera and his structural engineer.

“Mr. Samarasekera and Mr. Pasqual (who had undertaken the work on a profit / minimum cost basis) joined the project as good Lions friends of my husband Mahendra,” says Ms. Amarasuriya, while also paying tribute to the lawyer for her mother, Nivi Abeyeratna., who donated a television herself and her sister-in-law Savitri Peiris who not only took a close look at the accounts but also presented curtains / blinds for all three floors .

A strict follower of meticulous details, Amarasuriya assured the assembly that she would hand over the files with a complete inventory and warranty and guarantee cards shortly, while hoping that another donor would take charge of building the 4th floor for all those little children of Sri Lanka touched by cancer.

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