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Biographical entry Weliwita-Gunaratne, Lucien Gladwin (1930 - 2012)

MB BS Ceylon 1954; FRCS 1962.

Born
3 February 1930
Teldeniya, Ceylon
Died
6 February 2012
Occupation
Accident and emergency surgeon, General surgeon and Orthopaedic surgeon

Details

Lucian Gladwin Blaise Weliwita-Gunaratne was an accident and emergency surgeon in Kidderminster, and later returned to Sri Lanka, where he was a consultant surgeon at the Central Hospital (Nawinne). He was born on 3 February 1930 at Teldeniya, near Kandy, Ceylon. His parents, Don Zacharias Weliwita-Gunaratne and Theresa Weliwita-Gunaratne (née Perera Illanganratne), were headmaster and headmistress of boys' and girls' schools in Ragama, near Colombo. He attended secondary school at St Joseph's College, Colombo.

He displayed a talent for languages. He was introduced to Sanskrit and Pali at home by his father (who was a linguist and hymn writer), had the obligatory Latin at school, was bilingual in Sinhala and English, and, as an adult, learned Tamil and French.

He contemplated following his cousins, Julian and Paulinus, into the Catholic priesthood, but was dissuaded by his (otherwise devout) mother, who had already lost three of her young children to illness, leaving only him and his older brother Michael. The loss of his younger brothers, Paul Leslie and Peter Kingsley, were formative experiences in his childhood, and pointed him towards his calling to become a surgeon. The loss of four-year-old Peter had an especially painful impact, about which he found it difficult to speak, even 60 years later.

He entered the University of Ceylon, and graduated MB BS in 1954. He then worked for two years as a medical officer in charge of a peripheral unit in Hingurakgoda, and then moved to England. His surgical education began as a junior house officer at Birch Hill Hospital, Rochdale. He was then a senior house officer at Louth, Coventry and Bromsgrove, and at Battle Hospital, Reading. From 1959 to 1962 he was a surgical registrar in Bromsgrove, and subsequently a registrar in the thoracic unit at Yardley Green Hospital, Birmingham. He gained his FRCS in 1962.

Returning to Ceylon in 1963, he worked as a resident surgeon at the General Hospital Colombo, and then as a general surgeon at the General Hospital Ratnapura. He was also a consultant surgeon in two missionary hospitals in Jaffna and Marawila, and at Sulaiman Hospital Colombo (from 1969 to 1973).

In 1973 he returned to the UK, joining Kidderminster General Hospital in Worcestershire, where he worked variously as a locum registrar, accident surgeon, and associated specialist in the accident and emergency dept.

In 1985 he returned to Sri Lanka, where he worked as a consultant surgeon in trauma, orthopaedics and general surgery in Central Hospital (Nawinne) until 1990.

His professional life as a surgeon spanned two very different countries, but he was always aware, in his own words, that 'a human being in pain, is a human being in pain'. Well into his retirement he was always ready to listen, give advice, alleviate worries and make judicious use of his first aid kit when necessary. He truly felt that his profession was a calling, a vocation. So much so that when there was a dearth of surgeons in the war-torn area of northern Sri Lanka, he volunteered in 1996 for five months of what could only be termed gruelling surgery, taking care of civilians and soldiers alike. The most heart-breaking cases, in his view, were the children with abdominal injuries from anti-personnel mines, designed to injure the legs of adults. While he was no stranger to trauma from his previous work in accident and emergency, the cruelties of war and the lack of post traumatic care for caregivers took a toll on his psyche.

He did however have a great sense of humour. He was an avid philatelist, and was a member of the Kidderminster and District Philatelic Society and the British Society of Australian Philately. He had enjoyed ballroom dancing in his youth, and loved reading, listening to bird song, jazz, classical music, opera and Gregorian chant, playing chess and bridge, collecting (in both countries) a fascinating group of bridge partners. Manual dexterity was another skill, which remained with him to the end - it is not an exaggeration to say that he repaired every man-made object in and around his home.

He died on 6 February 2012 from cancer of oesophagus, aged 82, and was survived by his wife Anne (née Balasuriya), whom he married in 1955, his daughters Chintra and Cherine, and grandchildren Nina and Martin. Perhaps his greatest legacy was the National Institute for the Care of Paraplegics in Sri Lanka, which he founded in 1988, the first meetings taking place at his home in Kurunegela. Today it is in the capable hands of professionals from Kandy Teaching Hospital and other volunteers from Digana Rehabilitation Hospital.

Anne Weliwita-Gunaratne
Chintra Weliwita-Gunaratne
Cherine Munkholt

The Royal College of Surgeons of England