Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Consultant Anaesthetist’s dilemma



             It was the time of the second JVP uprising in Sri-Lanka in the 1980’s. I was working as Consultant Surgeon at Kandy Hospital. One of my colleagues was a very pretty cheerful Lady Consultant Anaesthetist. Her husband also was a consultant at the same hospital. Being a Consultant Anaesthetist involved late working hours in the private hospitals. There were various check-points manned by the army and police in Kandy town. Our Lady Anaesthetist had been doing a case in a nursing home by the side of Kandy lake, close to 8 pm that day. Her worried husband had rung her up and she had said that she would be finished in about 10 mins and would be driving her car herself to their home in Asgiriya. The night was hot and she had put on the air-conditioning in the car which meant closing all the windows in the car. Thus sounds from outside also would be diminished inside the car. She was approaching the climb to Asgiriya from near the railway crossing when she heard a loud noise and the windscreen in front shattered to bits. She was taken aback, but had the presence of mind to turn off the engine, pulled up the hand-brake and lay across the front seats. She heard the approach of booted feet on the pavement. Someone peeped through the broken windscreen and saw the figure lying on the seat. Then one of the police-men identified her and shouted ‘Me apey dostora nona ney’ (Hey, this is our Lady Doctor). Then only she had the courage to get up. One of the Junior Sub-Inspectors in charge of the street check-point, had called her to halt and the car not being stopped he had opened fire with his pistol. The bullet had pierced the rear door window, pirced the driving seat and struck the buckle on her safety belt, got deflected and exited through the front wind-screen. She had had a narrow shave. She told me that when she got down from the car she was shaking all over. She got a call to her husband, who arrived on the scene.
                The subsequent drama was rather comical. The police authorities were very sympathetic. They said that they would get the insurance to pay for the damage. For this a police entry was essential. The police did not want an entry made which might implicate the Sub-Inspector. They wanted a cooked up story to be entered, to save the SI. The Consultant husband refused this and got the wind-screen replaced at his own expense. The SI had the pistol taken away from him for some time.
                It was very dangerous to drive around after dark in those turbulent times. I once was stopped at Kosgama. When I tried to park the vehicle on a side I heard the safety catch on an automatic being released. I promptly stopped the vehicle to await further instructions from the army personnel on duty. Another time in Colombo I did not see an army check point on the road, till a soldier pointed an automatic at me from the center of the road ahead. Such was life in those days.

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