Would you know my name if I saw you Heaven...? Where’s Romali…? – Part I

After getting treatment for 7 days, costing LKR 700,000 at a leading private hospital in Colombo. Ms Romali De Silva passed away due to dengue fever on 7th April 2017 at the age of 26years. This should not be treated as ‘just another case,’ which will become a mere part of history. The events that took place leading up to Romali death highlights an embedded problem within a system. Over the years this system has affected thousands of people and families in Sri Lanka from all walks of life. The intention of Lanka News Web is to create a dialogue among our general public about this system by telling Romali’s detailed story, bringing into light not only certain flaws in practices followed by private hospitals, but also to bring fourth the actions of the doctors who may have been responsible for this untimely death before the peoples court.

"What I'm requesting from the doctors is not to judge a patient only according to the report. Just come and see the condition of the patient. I think in that way you can save a lot of lives" it was Romali's mother.   "What I'm requesting from the doctors is not to judge a patient only according to the report. Just come and see the condition of the patient. I think in that way you can save a lot of lives" it was Romali's mother.   

"My request is, each and every patient should get treated equally whether they are rich or poor. Just feel for everyone." She added.    Her father Rohindra joined the conversation, "Doctors should not take the lives of patients or these cases so lightly. This made us lose our beloved daughter forever."   

"I had a big dream to wed my daughter in a nice way and have a beautiful ceremony for her." Then he couldn't talk anymore, breaking down in front of us, unable to sustain his pain. It is they who live every single day with this agonising pain and it is they who will bear this anguish for the rest of their life.  

 "I know that Romali will never come back, but this should not happen to another mother and a father" he added. This conviction is the foundation of their strength, which allows them to share their daughter's story, reliving every moment, hoping justice will prevail, change will happen so that no family will have to go through such a heartbreaking loss.

At the time, Romali was a marketing executive at Brandix i3. She was 26 years when she passed away and she was spending the most beautiful years of her life. She was the only daughter of the family. She was a graduate in Psychology and Management from the University of Nottingham, and she was in the final stages of completing her qualification from the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

During this time of her untimely death, she was helping a child from SOS Children's Village for his studies. Although she was in the early stages of her career and did not earn much, she used to frequently visit orphanages and do whatever she could to make a difference in children’s lives. Even her parents never knew that she did all this charity and that their daughter had such a big beautiful heart. It was only after she was gone they started hearing stories about the amazing things she did for others in need.

Losing Romali not only affects her mother, father and brother, but the country as a whole has lost a worthy child. It is definitely not destiny or ‘Karma’ that stole Romali before her time, but the wretchedness of a system cruelly embedded in the country. If hospital authorities fail to bring the responsible parties before the law, being a responsible media network, we wish to do our duty in bringing them before the People's Court. 

We have a fortitude belief that this is not just an issolated incident and we will be questioning the failure of the whole system throughout this series of articles. We wish to bring to our general public the detailed story of Romali De Silva. We believe that Romali tragic story should never be repeated again. So we refuse to leave this story to fate or destiny.

Romali's short life - a Haiku poem  

There is an altar built for her behind the table where we spoke to her family; undying candles are lit on the altar for her; beautiful fragrant flowers are kept there throughout; the wall behind the altar are full of her precious memories. There is an altar built for her behind the table where we spoke to her family; undying candles are lit on the altar for her; beautiful fragrant flowers are kept there throughout; the wall behind the altar are full of her precious memories. Yes, her life is a Haiku poem, it's short but sweet. 

She was a young lady who followed her own motto "Live, Laugh and Love". There are several places within her home filled with the photographs of her beautiful smile. Her parents have nothing else to do other than to continue her good work and try to live each day, moving forward while keeping Romali's motto at heart. Romali's father has got her darling daughter's motto tattooed on his right arm, To him it is not just a tattoo, but a tattoo that is carved forever inside his heart and soul.

 

"Take her home and bring back if the blood count goes down"

On 30.03.2017, Romali was a healthy and a youthful lady, like any young person at her age. But that evening she was complaining of fever and body aches and her loving parents took her to a private hospital that very night. On 30.03.2017, Romali was a healthy and a youthful lady, like any young person at her age. But that evening she was complaining of fever and body aches and her loving parents took her to a private hospital that very night. 

During this period the island was swept away with Dengue fever at an epidemic level. Romali had a good knowledge on this topic as she was handling "dengue.lk" website, which was hosted by her former company. She complained of body pain to her mother and said it will be better if she could get a Dengue Antigen Test done. At this point she was having fever with a severe headache while further suffering from a stomachache and muscle pains. She was taken to Durdans Hospital and the doctor who checked her said that it's better to have a Dengue Antigen test for dengue fever, which was conducted. Her parents came back home with her after this and she was prescribed Panadol to be given in the correct dosage. 

By midnight they got a phone call from the hospital stating that the test was positive for "Dengue". Romali had Dengue antibodies in her blood sample.  

The phone call was answered by Romali's mother. She was shocked and asked what the blood count was. She immediately wanted to take her daughter to hospital again, however the hospital said Romali platelet count was 225 000 and it was not serious! The hospital then instructed on strict bed rest for the patient and to come back the next morning.  
The general practice at the time was to keep the patient home or instructed to be taken home administering bed rest if the platelet count was not at fatal levels. But if the platelet count shows signs of decrease or if any fatal signs are shown they are instructed to be admitted to a hospital.

On the 31st night, Romali was down with a severe fever; the reading of her body temperature was between 104°F and 105°F. She was losing her appetite as well.  Romali's mother phoned their family doctor once again. "Don't panic, bring her to me at 2.30 pm", she replied. Romali's parents took her to the doctor at the given time, again a platelet test was done and the report said that the count had deteriorated to 175,000. What she said was "Better to admit her to a hospital if things get worse". She prescribed Panadol as well.

Romali was so exhausted and her temperature was fluctuating all the time. Her mother never took her eyes off her daughter. During this time she noticed that the signs were getting worse and as result contacted their doctor at about 7am, on the 1st of April.

The doctor said the increasing symptoms could be a direct result of a drop in Romali's platelet count and now it is the right time to admit her to a hospital. She further recommended Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama as the best Physician to take care of her.

Physician Ananda Wijewikrama was the head of IDH hospital. IDH is a general hospital which was doing an outstanding task fighting the dengue menace. With the expectation and hope of providing their only daughter the best treatment, they rushed to where they could see that doctor. 

They took Romali to Asiri Medical Hospital at Kirula Road as it's one of the only two places where the doctor could be channeled. (The other was Lanka Hospital). 

Romali was already in a bad state, she spewed twice even before the car reached the hospital. It was a struggle to take her from the car to the hospital due to her weakened state. They had to call for a wheelchair. 

At this stage all the hospital rooms were occupied, so they took Romali to the Emergency Care Unit. A drip was administered to her immediately.

''At that moment her temperature was 104°F" her mother said. Romali had to undergo several tests as they were urgent, and then by noon she was registered at the hospital.

The young House Officer who registered Romali to the hospital phoned Dr. Wijewikrama and consulted him regarding her condition. Dr Ananda Wijewickrama instructed on an immediate blood test to be done and the reports to be sent to him. It was Mr Rohindra who handed over the blood sample of his daughter to the laboratory. He was also advised to say that it was urgent. Romali father believed that this was the best place for his daughter. He went to the laboratory twice to check whether the reports were ready. And finally, it was emailed for reading and by that time her blood count had dropped to 144 000.

The House Officer at ECU rang Dr. Wijewickrama once again and what he said was that it's too early to admit Romali to the hospital and advised for her to be taken home and to return if it drops to 100, 000 or below. The House Officer conveyed the Dengue specialist's message to Romali's parents.  

They panicked and were deeply concerned at which point the mother argued with the doctor. "My daughter's reports show that she is dengue positive, she is even vomiting and shivering. How can I take her home in this situation as her mother and take care of her life? I brought her here to be admitted because our family doctor advised us to do so", she was pleading with tears.  

Then the doctor said "If you are so concerned, we will give a suppository to get down the fever"

"Do you know that the suppository is worst for the dengue fever?" questioned the mother.  

The doctor, after a moment of silence said that "we can admit her under another doctor upon your reference…" 

As Romali's condition was critical they needed a trustworthy and known doctor. So they thought of taking her to Asiri Central Hospital as a second option.
  "Why Asiri Central Hospital?" We asked.  

"We trusted this hospital a lot. 4 years ago I underwent a brain surgery at the same hospital. I had the best treatment there and they paid very good attention to me. As parents we wanted to give our daughter the best treatments available and make her feel better. So we took that decision…"  

It was a fatal decision indeed, as this hospital can be held accountable to the events that lead to Romali death. Romali left this world at the same Asiri Central Hospital where Romali's father was the 7th highest shareholder of Softlogic Holdings, the parent company of the said hospital. However it should be noted that he was not a shareholder at the time when they admitted her to the hospital.

Under the shadows of dusk

When they were taking the decision to take Romali to the Asiri Central Hospital it was about 3pm. Romali spoke to her mother and her voice was so weak, "Ammi, I'm not feeling good, take the decision what you'll want to do, but don't take me home!!"When they were taking the decision to take Romali to the Asiri Central Hospital it was about 3pm. Romali spoke to her mother and her voice was so weak, "Ammi, I'm not feeling good, take the decision what you'll want to do, but don't take me home!!"

Romali was never a child who forces her parents for anything, but for some reason this time she was so compelling. Why was that..?  

"No darling, we won't take you home" mom said crying. Romali was taken to the car again, assisted by a wheelchair.  "We were told that Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama was the best, and we took her to Asiri Medical Hospital expecting treatment from the same Physician and they asked us to take her back home, because the platelet count were not below 100,000. And I would like to reinforce the fact that Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama was the first one who is responsible for this. At the time I shouted at the doctor. Only a mother could understand the pain I was undergoing; I knew my daughter was not in a good condition, she was vomiting, had a severe fever and couldn't even keep her head up and sit straight. They merely gave saline for dehydration… and then I told them to at least come here and see what was the condition of my daughter and then tell me whether I should take her home… " Romali's mother recalled that moment.

Due to some business relationships mentioned above, Mr. Rohindra had some contacts with the senior management of the Asiri Hospital network. That morning while they were taking Romali to the Asiri Medical Hospital, he spoke to a friend from there, who is an executive officer and informed him that they were taking their daughter to Asiri Medical and that he would ring him if  they needed anything. "No problem Rohindra, I will get a room ready for her, after admitting her  we will take her to that room. These days there are lots of patients." He has said.  

"There was a room that was ready for my daughter, but they said that they couldn't admit her under Dr. Wijewickrama.  So, what could I do?" Mr. Rohindra said. They had no option but to take her to Asiri Central Hospital for the sake of her life. On the way he stopped the car and rang the family doctor, but the number was busy and then he spoke to his executive friend again and mentioned to him what happened at Asiri Medical hospital. He immediately said to bring Romali to the Asiri Central Hospital, and he suggested to admit her under a good physician specialized for dengue fever at Asiri Central Hospital.  

When they went to the hospital Romali was given special treatments including drips and cannulas and within half an hour she was admitted to the hospital. The doctor, who was initially suggested to treat Romali, was found to be busy while trying to reach him. Then authorities got connected with Physician Panduka Karunanayake. When Romali's father inquired on Dr. Panduka he was told by the executive officer "Don't panic and have no fear, my daughter was down with dengue fever and was treated by this doctor and she is cured now" 

With that assurance, Romali's life was in the hands of Dr. Panduka Karunanayaka since that moment. Romalis parents never moved even for a second from her bedside.

Although dengue patients should be subjected to daily scanned tests, under the care of the hospital, Romali was scanned only once throughout the 7 days she lived at the hospital. And the relevant authorities foolishly never considered the results of that single scan test, despite it indicating early liver leakage. Alternately this negligence lead to this beautiful healthy lady who had never been admitted to a hospital throughout her whole life, to never return home with her parents.  

The truth will never be silenced, as the dead. When the dead start telling their stories it won't be peaceful for those responsible parties. We believe incidents speak out for themselves and justice will prevail. Also, we are bringing out these article series on young Romali's death, while recognizing that each and every party has their own story as well.

Let's meet in the next tragic episode.

Contributors: Radika Gunaratne, Hansini Sampath

Translated by: Chavini Abhayasinghe

Pix by: Pathum Senarathna

 

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