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Tribute to Dr K Ratnakumar

Ratna and Saro

Tribute to Dr Kandiah Ratnakumar FRCS 15.04.1951- 26.01.2021 Emeritus Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

Alumnus of 1. Pannagam Meihandan Vidyalam and Victoria College, Chulipuram. Jaffna 2. Hindu College, Jaffna 3.Peradeniya Medical School, University of Ceylon 1971-1975 Kandiah Ratnakumar also fondly known as Rattu, to his close school friends and Ratna Boss to his hospital colleagues hailed from the village of Chulipuram, Jaffna, Sri Lanka. He was one of four siblings and after his primary education in his village he moved to Jaffna Hindu College for his Advanced Level studies. A childhood companion who grew up with him from his early school days is Dr Ananthamoorty, retired Senior lecturer in Dentistry, now settled back in their village of Chulipuram. He fondly recalls, “Ratna and I were schoolmates, growing up together at Pannagam Meihandan Vidyalam where we first learnt the alphabet of our mother tongue. Both of us moved to Victoria College together and Ratna then moved to Jaffna Hindu College. Ratna never failed to visit me when he was in Jaffna. Similarly, he never forgot his roots and often visited his relatives and friends in Sri Lanka and was extremely charitable”.

Ratnakumar entered Peradeniya Medical Faculty along with many of his class mates. Dr Vipulendran who was with him from Advanced Level days says that Rattu was a conscientious student with a quiet personality, always very sociable and enjoyed the company of his friends. Vipul remembers his warm smile which was characteristic of his bright and engaging personality. He was utterly calm, composed and focussed at all times – traits that he carried into his professional career.

Dr Mark Ragupathy, a school and University friend, remembers Rattu patiently dissecting the shark heads, toads and cockroaches for Zoology practicals, with total dedication and sharpness of an eagle’s eye. He would be so absorbed by the task at hand that he would only raise his head once the dissection was completed. Dr Mark Ragupathy has also said, ‘Rattu -a friend for life and beyond, affectionately known to his friends as Rattu was the very essence of friendliness, gentleness and Joy. He was never known to say anything hurtful, was always complimentary, cheerful and helpful. Numerous other friends and classmates have mentioned similar sentiments that Ratnakumar was a “man of few words, well respected and an exceptionally decent human being.”.

Many of his batch mates were taken by surprise at the news of Ratna’s demise. Dr Tony Mariathas who was a University friend and roommate during their medical school days has said, “Rattu was quiet and shy but also fun loving, reliable and trustworthy. Rattu made all of us happy with his unique sense of humour.” Dr Ratnakumar after completing his primary degree in Sri Lanka, did his Internship at the General Hospital Colombo and stayed at the 329 doctors’ quarters opposite the De Soysa Maternity Home. Here he made many friends with the Colombo Medics during his internship. and this is where I came to know this gentleman (by which I mean every single letter in this word).

Rattu’s wife, Saro was his batch mate at the University, but their relationship really blossomed during the internship years in Colombo. They got married in 1978 and both of them served in the Provincial Hospital, Nawalapitiya. During his training in Sri Lanka, Ratnakumar was very fortunate to work with that great son of Sri Lanka, the late Dr Lucky Dissanayake from whom he learnt the basic surgical skills. Dr Shanti Abraham also a batch mate at the University recalled that Ratna looked after his father extremely well, and was very close to his family. Both Ratna and Saro completed their 6 years of compulsory period of service in Sri Lanka and came to the United Kingdom for their Postgraduate Training, Ratna in Orthopaedics and Saro in Anaesthesia.

While training in Orthopaedics, Ratna explored the possibility of migrating to Canada and even started training in Newfoundland, Canada. He was invited by his good friend, the late Dr Rosa. Dr Vijayakanthan who worked in the Obs and Gynae speciality alongside him in Newfoundland Hospital recalls “Ratnakumar as a very jovial, pleasant character taking pleasure in arguing just for the sake of arguing.” Indeed, being the ‘devil’s advocate was a role that he cherished.

Ratna was not happy with the Canadian venture and returned to UK to join Saro. They did not wish to spend further 5-6 years in Canada to train themselves. However, they pursued with their training here in the UK and became consultants in their chosen fields. Ratnakumar was appointed Consultant Orthopaedic surgeon at Old church Hospital, now named the Queen’s Hospital specialising in Knee Surgery. He not only touched the hearts of his patients and staff but also several of his social contacts making him a very open and approachable individual, acting as a friend, mentor and advisor to many. He took a keen interest in training his junior doctors, some from Sri Lanka who have now returned home to practice as leading Orthopaedic Consultants in Sri Lanka. Dr Sathi Ariyanayagam, retired Consultant in Genito-Urinary Medicine, was a close friend of both Ratna and Saro, He lives close to Ratnakumar and was a regular visitor to their Gant’s Hill residence, Sathi recalls barging into their home without any prior warning and was always welcomed by both Saro and Ratna. It has been mentioned by many of their friends that their home was always open to their friends and family and they showed hospitality beyond measure. Many of the friends visiting from United States and Canada were welcomed to their home to stay during their visits. Often these resulted in parties with other mutual friends being invited. This was a regular feature in the recent years.

Ratnakumar worked in Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS Trust Hospitals since 2001 and was appointed as Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Old Church Hospital. He was affectionately called “Ratna Boss.” One of his trainees wrote, “He was a great surgeon, colleague, friend, mentor and more importantly a decent human being. He had an infectious smile and was hugely respected and well-liked by his colleagues, staff and patients. . He leaves a huge hole in our hearts as well as in the hearts of his family and patients”.

Ratnakumar was very close not only to his immediate family but also to his extended family and helped them in many ways and was a generous donor to many UK charities that helped the needy in Sri Lanka. He never sought pomp, ceremony or positions but opted to help behind the screens. He was a devout Hindu but in keeping with the teaching of Jesus, his left hand did not know what his right hand gave. Ratna, Rattu, Ratnakumar has left a lasting impact on the lives of many, school mates, batch mates, colleagues, NHS staff who worked with him and trainees both from Sri Lanka and England. We all miss him and our prayers are with his ever-loving wife Saro and other members of his family who he has left behind. May his soul rest in PEACE.

Ranjit Thambyrajah. Colombo 75 Medic


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