Dr. Rajitha Desilva, Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon at Sri Jayawardanepura Hospital and Co-Founder of the ‘Heart to Heart’ Trust Fund takes us on a journey involving the human heart and his personal quest to implement awareness about its importance.
Heat to Heart Trust Fund
‘Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love` -Mother Theresa
The profound quote resonates with the core mission of the Heart to Heart Trust Fund which is followed by a plea to help the needy while we can. This magnanimous venture was established by two benevolent Surgeons who had compassion for the plight of the ‘hoi polloi’. The poor folk who are faced with the dire need of a heart are at the mercy of the National Hospital and the Karapitiya Hospital in Galle which performs this procedure en gratis basis but the lengthy waiting process proves detrimental to their lives. This niche factor was identified and addressed by the compassionate Dr. Rajitha who identified the plight of the needy. He along with his guru, Dr. Ruwan Ekanayake, the eminent Consultant Cardiologist established the Trust which serves as a platform for interested donors to help save lives, which in turn is a blessing or as in many religions considered a meritorious act.
The Management of Sri Jayawardenapura Hospital, Nursing Staff, other Doctors of the Hospital and many other staff employees rallied around together with many other volunteers, to the inaugurate Heart to Heart Trust Fund on the 1st of November 2014.
In addition, special mention needs to made to the Lions Club of Ahungalla, Mr. Indrajith De Silva, Mrs. Champa Samarasinghe,Sister in Charge of Ward 20, who has given their unstinted support, our very own famous singers ;V. Victor Ratnayake and V. Nanda Malini, Lyric writer, Indika Pradeep Appurala and all those numerous people who gave a helping hand to make this a success.
Dr. Ruvan Ekanayake donates the entire proceeds from the sale of his books on a monthly basis which ensures the smooth running of the Trust, in addition to the benevolent group of generous donors with some insisting on retaining their anonymity.
The first key hole cardiac surgery under the Heart to Heart Trust Fund was performed on the 48 year old D. Chandana De Silva from Panadura. Soon after this first surgery under the Trust Fund, Dr. Rajitha De Silva appealed for valuable help from the people and the corporate sector to save lives by contributing whatever they can. “Families can get-together and sponsor a surgery in memory of a loved one who is no more or a company can do so”, he said.
The gravity of this cause and its worth is immeasurable as no one can place a value on a life.
Explaining the dire straits in which patients find themselves, Dr. Ekanayaka who is the current President of the Sri Lanka Heart Association and has been a Cardiologist for 29 years said that emergency surgery to save a patient’s life is restricted in the government sector.
“Facilities are insufficient to meet the demand, so there is a mismatch between demand and supply,” he said, adding that though there are charities like the President’s Fund which give some funding to such patients, there is still a shortfall in the amount of money needed.
This creates another problem. The concept of the Trust Fund is although we cannot help everyone, those we do, we will help fully so that they can undergo the surgery needed,”he added.
About Dr. Rajitha De Silva
“My father was a strict disciplinarian who steered me on a path which I never imagined as a young boy,” stated the good Doctor, who has gained a reputation for extending a hand to the most desperate heart patients in the country. Reflecting on his childhood, he recalls his main aim in life; which was to play sports but his father identified his potential and encouraged him to pay more attention to his studies. His penchant for cricket stood the test of time with him being a prominent cricket player in the medical fraternity of the island, yet he applied himself to his studies coupled with his innate empathy for people which ultimately drove him towards his profession as a Doctor.
His choice in specializing in the cardiac field was due mainly to its life giving ability. “The first successful surgery on the heart, without any complications, was performed by Dr. Ludwig Rehn of Frankfurt, Germany, who repaired a stab wound to the right ventricle on 7 September 1896. Till then any heart related operations were unheard of opening up the heart was considered taboo but the post- world war II era saw a revolutionary change in heart surgeries and now we in Sri Lanka perform the most technologically advanced, minimally invasive key hole surgeries resulting in the fast recovery of many patients,” stated Dr. Rajitha, adding that the most novel concept in reference to the heart being the artificial heart. He illustrated his point by showing me some images of the artificial hearts he had seen on his visit to Texas.
“While awareness about heart related issues has increased, the diseases which affect the heart have increased due to the lifestyle changes in terms of unhealthy eating habits, smoking, lack of exercise and stress which I believe could and should be altered as much as possible as prevention is always better than cure,” advised Dr. Rajitha.