Here is the story of how it all came about......I met Daya in February of last year and became fond of her gentle ways very quickly. She had a husband, four sons and a daughter. Her eldest son owned an electrical shop on the South West coast of Sri Lanka and on the fateful day he was in his shop. The rest of the family were with cousin Irene for the Christmas break. The water came, destroying the shop and tragically claimed his life. Daya carries a picture of her son’s body in her wallet, and it seems to be her way of coping with the terrible grief.
When I met Daya she was trawling the local restaurants selling the families’ art work during the evenings in the season (November, December, January and February). As I got to know her she told me more about the family and I was surprised to learn that her son-in-law, her daughter and husband are all artists and she endeavours to sell their work. This involves a 3 hour journey on the bus from her home in Dickwella on the southern tip, up to Hikkaduwa. When I asked her why she did not sell the art locally she replied that the people who buy from her are tourists and she needs to come north for that.
In pursuit of sales she sometimes walks up to 8km per day. She has walked with a crutch ever since I have known her, and the deterioration of her knee had increased in the last 16 months at a worrying rate.
She agreed to see a consultant at the local hospital in Galle and he told me that she needed a referral for a knee replacement to a hospital in Colombo. We duly made the trip to Colombo and I was told that she could have the operation there but it would be very expensive and it would not last more than 2 years. Bearing in mind that a knee op like this takes nearly 12 months to fully return to normal function this seemed to be a second rate option. I thought I would try and source a joint that would have a longer life.
On my return to Guernsey I called Kay and Roger Allsopp to see if there was anyway I could get my hands on a joint. I told Kay I did’nt mind flying off to get one from elsewhere so I could take it to Colombo. She said she would talk to Roger and come back to me. A couple of days later I attended the Awards for Achievement evening at Beau Sejour and Roger came to the table and said he had someone he thought I should meet. It was Rhanjan Vhadra an Orthopaedic Surgeon. I do not know what Roger had said to him as I had never met him before but he offered to carry out the operation here in Guernsey subject to BOH approval.
I was dumbstruck. Me, stuck for words! Some would say that is a first! What a choice to have to make – between the cleanliness of Guernsey and the Hospital I had seen in Sri Lanka. I did not have to make the choice it was made for me. But what I did have to do was give Daya and her family the choice, because if she was not going to be comfortable coming to the West for surgery it was not my place to make her.
The following Monday , Roger called to tell me that he and Ranjan had sought permission from the BOH and they had agreed. The realization of how generous this offer was going to be was really starting to hit home!
On my next trip to Sri Lanka the family came on mass to my hotel and I told them of Ranjan’s offer. First there was jaw dropping amazement, then there were tears, and that was just me! Charini is Daya’s daughter-in-law and speaks very good English, she conveyed the fact that they were all overwhelmed with the offer and could not quite believe it. She then asked if she and her husband Thushara, Daya’s son, and their 5 month old baby could accompany Daya. I agreed as long as we could get Visa’s for them to travel. That is when the work started.
Nicky and I compiled a list of services and items we would need both for the journey and here in Guernsey. All items are listed below, and its only when you see this that you realise just HOW generous everyone has been. I cannot begin to thank people enough for what they have done – and I know for a fact that the family will never forget how Guernsey opened its heart to both Daya and her cousin Irene.
Originally as I said, I was to arrange the surgery for Sri Lanka. The GPG group had generously donated £500 towards the physio care and Mary Perkins, as ever had been a star and offered to help with the cost of the op. When it became clear that we could do the procedure here the GPG kindly agreed to give the physio service instead and Mary said the money could be used for Daya’s flight instead.
I flew with Daya out of Colombo on Sunday 7th May 2006 and we arrived in London at 9am that morning. We were met by Karen Goodhew at Heathrow and ferried by private car to Gatwick to catch the Aurigny flight back to Guernsey. Daya slept like a baby on my sofa that night, not waking until 8.30am.
We saw Ranjan Vhadra on Monday evening after X- rays at the Hospital first. It was here that we first met Dr Eddie – he was very kind and explained the whole procedure to Daya. Ranjan gave the all clear for the op to be done with the proviso that the theatre staff and Hospital were ok for a Saturday am Operation. There was a good chance that it would have to wait until the following Saturday, but in any event it really did not matter to any of us as we were all here anyway. I have to confess to feeling relieved that Ranjan had said that the op was very necessary and admit to a sense of guilt in case I had bought Daya here unnecessarily.
Wednesday morning and it was back to the MSG, this time to see Alan Boyle for the checks pre anaesthetic. All was well – once we had the name spelt right! Next to have bloods done. All very scary for poor Daya – but hugely important.
Charini called and said that her Auntie Irene who lived in London may be able to come and stay and help translate for us. This seemed too good to be true. I called and spoke to her and within half an hour she was booked onto an Aurigny flight from Gatwick. So on Thursday Nicky and I took Daya to the airport to greet Auntie. We could see the look of relief on Daya’s face when she stepped through the arrival doors.
All we could do now was wait for confirmation that the Hospital were ready for us – this came on Thursday. Daya was admitted to Victoria Wing on Friday at 2pm. Irene and I left her in the capable hands of the Nurse’s. I had a totally sleepless night thinking of all the things that might go wrong!
Collected Irene from La Collinette Hotel at 7.30am and we arrived onto the ward to find a very sleepy Daya –having just had her pre-med. Ranjan arrived for the final chat and we were soon winging our way down to the Theatre suite. Daya was snoring like a baby! Irene and I had to don attractive banana coloured gowns with matching hats – very fetching – and beautiful green plastic clogs – move over on the Paris catwalk – Irene is on the case! As soon as Daya had gone to sleep I took Irene off for a coffee and an anxious wait before we could go to recovery.
We returned to the ward and waited for the call to go back to the Theatre. This came at around 11.15 and after a quick chat with Ranjan and Alan, who said that everything had gone really well, we were escorted down stairs by Alan to find a dozing Daya surrounded by 4 wonderful nurses who had all given their day off to attend the surgery. There was lots of laughter while they carefully checked and rechecked all Daya’s vital signs. As soon as they were happy with progress we were transferred back to room 16 on Vic Wing.
The rest of the day went in a whirl of half hourly obs. The stay on Victoria wing was made so easy by the kindness extended by all the staff from the Sister to the lovely lady who served the teas from the trolley.
Soon it was time for Dawn Thomas to attend and show Daya what was required for the start of what is to be a sustained programme of stretching exercises.
The rest of the week flew by with lots of visitors, media attention and beautiful flowers. We were given the all clear on Friday 19th to come home and we departed for la Collinette Hotel.
Her final weeks passed quickly with visits to see Mr Vhadra and visits in the hotel from Mike Thomas to give Daya her Physio sessions.In between times both Irene and Daya based themselves at my house and we tried to do something different each day.
Various gardens have been visited, a visit to see my GP Mary Hotton, a visit to Specsavers for Daya to have a much needed eye check, amongst other things.
So many people recognised the ladies from the stories in the Guernsey Press and we have had some really friendly people coming up for a chat when they see us out and about not least hooting of car horns and people giving the ‘thumbs’ up. The generosity people have shown makes me very proud that this little Island of Guernsey can be so warm and welcoming to 2 people from Sri Lanka, one of whom is WELL outside her ‘comfort zone’!!
So THANK YOU – from the bottom of my heart!
The update on Daya is that she is now walking with her head held high and no-one would ever know she has had a major operation on her knee. There is a spring in her step - a glint in her eye and a smile a mile wide - Well done Guernsey a fabulous result. I like stories with happy endings!