A new lease of life for Grade 1 scholar
Sashith with Dr Sunil Perera under whose skilled hands and
guidance he overcame paralysis
When 10-year-old W.A.D Shashith, a student of President's College,
Embilipitiya received the news that he had won the distinction of the
ninth highest position at the recent All Island Grade Five Scholarship
examination, he wept for joy.
Little did he know that his dreams of getting transferred to a
prestigious school in Colombo and becoming a doctor, would be shattered
at the very gates of his own school where he would go the next day to
collect his certificate at a special ceremony held in his honour.
Having collected the certificate and carrying it carefully in his
hands, Sashith was crossing the road to reach his van which suddenly
swerved into his path, knocking him over. The accident occurred in
"His certificate was covered with his blood," his still shaken father
said, showing us the blood stained certificate. The child was first
admitted to the National Hospital in Colombo and was treated for a
frontal fracture and foreign bodies with a CSF leak which was medically
managed. Although he was discharged a week later, he developed
complications that led the parents to admit him into the Embilipitiya
hospital, where he was then transferred to the Neurological Unit at the
Karapitiya Teaching Hospital. Where he was diagnosed with meningitis and
subdural emphyema and underwent multiple surgeries. Upon getting
discharged the patient was still not responding and had no limb
movements. The child was then admitted to Asiri Central Hospital.
" We brought him to this hospital which we were told had the best
equipped Brain and Scan unit in the country for neurological disorders ,
only after being assured by friends and school authorities that our
expenses would be met, as we didn't even have the money to channel the
doctor we were told to meet", the father said.
Recalling that day when Sashith was wheeled into his clinic at the
Asiri Central Hospital at Norris Canal Road, the long experienced
Consultant Neurologist of the Brain and Scan Unit of the hospital, Dr
Sunil Perera said that sight of that completely helpless young child had
triggered him and his staff to immediate action.
Being welcomed by the dedicated hospital staff
"I was in my channelling room waiting for my next patient when this
little boy was brought in. There was no movement in his body. His eyes
were closed, his lips did not move and he appeared to have difficulty in
swallowing. It was clear he needed urgent surgery," Dr Perera said at a
media briefing at the flagship hospital.
The guest of honour was Sashith, whose nearly complete rehabilitation
was due to the generous gesture of the entire hospital staff including
the operating team which waived their fees and gave both in kind
(medications) and cash to facilitate their favourite patient's recovery.
Recalling details of the miracle surgery that helped restore the
youngster to his now near normal condition, Dr Perera said, "What we
first did was to do a scan. CT scans that were performed at the Asiri
Brain & Spine Centre, revealed a large cyst in the right frontal region
with severe hydrocephalous and a frontal craniotomy. In laymen language
it revealed a large hole in front which showed a big gap filled with
water which required immediate surgery to remove the fluid, Dr Perera
He said, normally children of this age have around 150 mg of fluid.
But Sashith had one whole litre of fluid which was putting an enormous
pressure on his brain which controlled the body's movements. (The
medical term for increased volume of fluid in the brain is Cerebro
Spinal Fluid (CSF). In addition there was a large cyst also filled with
water. We had to remove all this excess water and send it elsewhere in
Explaining the six hour complicated surgical procedure, known as
Ventricular Peritoneal Shunt (VPS) where an anaesthetized Sashith lay
under the surgeon's knife, he said, "First we went into the cyst which
had caused a big gap in the upper brain, and connected it to a shunt
which could be controlled from outside, changing it according to the
child's progress. This is one of the most sophisticated controlled shunt
systems as there is no need to constantly probe into the body as we can
control it from out."
Asked if the shunt could be kept inside the brain for the rest of his
life, he said it was an adult sized stunt which expands when the brain
grows. "Children's brains develop quickly doubling after the first two
years and doubling again after 15 years. So this child has still a long
way to go before reaching the maximum level," he said.
The happy family
"It's a once and for all operation guaranteed to last a life time",
The effects of that life changing operation were almost immediate, he
recalls. "Even in the ICU we could see him making small movements, being
able to swallow his liquid food. Now he can talk, walk and eat by
himself which is nothing short of a miracle.
If he had been left at home he would never have been able to do
anything, especially since he was also under nourished as his parents
couldn't afford to buy him vitamins and foods he needed. So we decided
to take a holistic approach and cure the body, and mind as well as he
was also mentally very stressed due to the injuries and his fear of not
being able to return to school".
Responding to a question on how long it would take for Sashith to
recover completely and go back to school, he said, "The boy is currently
undergoing physiotherapy. His recovery depends on his determination and
will power which he has in plenty. I believe it won't be long before he
returns to school".
The message which Dr Perera anwd his staff wish to covey to the
public is simple:
"Sashith's case is by no means unique. We see children coming to us
very often in this condition. The lucky few who can afford fees manage
to get their children treated.
But less privileged parents have to endure the agony of seeing their
children suffering and dying for want of proper treatment. It is our
duty to help them obtain the maximum help they need."
Group CEO, Asiri Central Mr. Manjula Karunaratne who welcomed the
guests said Asiri Central Hospital is one of the best-appointed and
technologically advanced medical facilities, offering international
standards in healthcare, and is the flagship of the Asiri Group of
"It is a one stop medical facility that offers diagnostic,
therapeutic and intensive care facilities by specialists of a diverse
area from medical to surgical divisions. They are supported by a
trained, energetic and dynamic team of in-house medical officers and
nursing staff," he said.