The mood is gloomy around campus these days. Samitha, a third year medical student was injured about ten days ago as she accompanied her batch on a site visit to the BMICH. This was in order to scope out the place for the up-coming (and now postponed) medical exhibition. The Deyata Kirula stalls were still there and a sudden downpour forced them to seek shelter under the sheds.
Horrifyingly, one of the sheds collapsed on a group of students... two managed to make it out... two, including Samitha were trapped beneath the rubble. The other student escaped with minor injuries, Samitha however was not so lucky. Another student described how a metal support pole hit her head, and as she fell, how another pole landed on her back... She sustained severe injuries, skull fractures, bleeding in her chest cavity (haemothorax) and tragically, a spinal cord injury at midchest level. X-rays and MRI scans showed shattered spinal vertebrae... a grim sign of what spinal surgery would later reveal.
Samitha underwent a 20 hour surgery last Tuesday, to stabilise the spinal column. Apparently, the surgeons had discovered that the spinal cord wasn't completely cut, as feared... but was however severely crushed. The implications? Well... the worst is that there is very little chance that Samitha will regain the ability to walk.
Right now, she's in the NSICU, battling the stress effects of her injury as well as the surgery. Batchmates and other friends are keeping vigil at the accident service, combing the internet, phoning contacts and trying to find out any possible treatment method that may offer some hope. There is talk of stem cell therapy, that maybe they may differentiate into nervecells and bridge the gap. There are other treatments, mostly experimental that slow the rate of fibrous tissue formation, leaving room for whatever nerves that have survived to recover.
None of these are available in Sri Lanka. Few have shown scientifically sound, proven results... but any glimmer of hope is worth striving for. Unless a miracle happens (and believe me, there are hundreds of us in temples and churches holding bodhi pooja and other religeous services, silently offering up prayers to whatever diety we believe in that such a miracle will happen) she will need complete and long term support, physically, psychologically and socially... with proper rehabilitation to help her adjust to the consequences of her injury.
Money is scarce. Her father unfortunately passed away when she was young and her mother too is ill and has just had major surgery. Her sister, a teacher, has been supporting the family. The estimated cost for Samitha's treatment and rehabilitation is between 10 - 15 million rupees. :(
I don't know Samitha very well. I've seen her in campus, talking to friends, clutching books while running to one lecture or the other... full of hopes and dreams. Her friends describe her as being fun loving and hard working. that she faced the many hardships life threw at her with courage and determination. After days of tears, she seems to have found her inner strength again.... as she told a friend, "I am ready to face anything". She smiles up at those who visit her... and lives in hope that she will have a chance to regain at least part of her former independence.
The Sunday Times ran an article about her yesterday. More details can be provided on request. If you, or anyone you know would like to help, please call Aravinda Kamaladasa on 0773-017183 or contribute to the student rehabilitation fund started by the faculty.