It takes someone special to impress a young lad, I must say. As a child, I have met many doctors, but my impression on this exemplary doctor is unforgettable; tall, slim, a sporty look, long-sleeved shirt with a matching tie and a friendly personality are etched in my memory even to this day. His dispensary was situated on Galle Road in Dehiwala where Arpico is housed. But that was where my mother used to take us whenever ill-health was waving at us. He had a unique way of winning over the hearts of his young patients by giving him a ‘naarangbik’ lozenge. In our era, this was an absolute treat. The lozenge took the shape of a mandarin slice.
Time taken for diagnosis
He spends a good 20 minutes or more, first listening to the parent, then asking the child questions followed by a thorough examination of pulse, lungs, throat, ears and eyes. I particularly remember him checking behind the ear for any inflamed glands. He was very gentle. Today, some doctors start writing the prescription by the time you enter the room. But Dr. Aloysius was certainly a doctor who cared about his patients and spent all the time required to make a full assessment of the patient and come to a clear conclusion. His clinical diagnosis was based on the conversation and thorough examination. I remember waiting for our turn because he paid the same attention to each and every one of his patients. Never did he request for any test to be done unnecessarily. Blood and urine tests were also done at his dispensary, but he NEVER used it as an opportunity to mint money.
A certain cure
Dr. Aloysius never gave medicine where the patient was required to visit him again. We never heard him say: “come back in two weeks or one month.” What I recall was the liquid – which was a mixture he prepared in the dispensary – he gave us which had a horrible taste. Along with that he would make a powder by crushing a few tablets. Within two or three days, you are completely cured. It certainly was not the strong antibiotics that the present day ‘One Shot’ doctors give. His healing process included less medicine, good humour and sound advice. This has been the perfect cure for many for decades.
Promoting healthy lifestyle
This good doctor genuinely practised “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Whenever we were taken to him, he would always advise us to stay healthy. He would advise us to do exercises, sports, eat healthy food and lead a balanced life. Of course, people were much healthier then, because we ate fresh vegetables, fruits and fish. If my mother ever asked “should he eat?” his response would be “if he can eat, let him.”
Reputation in the locality
There were only a few doctors available in our area. Dr. Denis and his brother Dr. Hubert were the well-known ones. They both were known to be well-learned, experienced medical practitioners. They were always available. If needed, they both made home visits, especially for the elderly. Home visits are very rare these days. Most young doctors would not even consider the possibility of making a home visit. But Dr. Aloysius brothers saw it as part of their service to the community.
I must say that Dr. Denis Aloysius was incomparable. His mannerisms were gentle and integrity was unmatched. He was service-oriented and was so committed to his profession. I am sure that the doctors of yesteryear took their hippocratic oath very, very, seriously. He certainly did not drive a flashy car. At one time, he was the President of the Sri Lanka Medical Association. I have seen him and his brother at many a sports event where he was seen to be giving medical advice to the players, especially in the field of rugby. He did not have to show off his knowledge or wealth to stand out in society. He was humble and kind. These were his qualities that made him stand out and not just his qualifications.
Over the years, I have met Dr. Aloysius many times. Each time I saw him, I used to ask myself what has gone wrong in the medical profession in the present day. Why is Dr. Aloysius so different? The difference between a doctor and an excellent medical practitioner lies in the attitude. The key indeed was the healthy attitude he had. He was ethically very sound. To him, his ‘customers’ being healthy was more important than the number of patients he would treat. He always wanted to help. He certainly adorned the title ‘doctor.’ In addition to his good education and family background, he was also a good sportsman. His physique was an example for us to follow. His personality taught us how to be healthy.
What we need to gather from the life of Dr. Denis Aloysius is that being healthy is NOT going to hospital. A healthy nation is not a nation which has so many hospitals and laboratories but one where by and large people stay away from hospital.
Health is wealth
The Buddha said so clearly that health was indeed wealth. Dr. Denis certainly believed in this. Our visits to his dispensary were few and far between because he wanted to preserve our health. He did not exploit the patients to amass wealth for himself. Has economic gain become the priority for a majority of practitioners? Private practice, pharmacies, diagnostics and laboratories are the main priorities in the field of health today. Every city, town and even the remotest villages are full of these. Come rain or shine we see that these centres are open. Ill-health of people is the wealth of doctors, it appears today. Doctors prescribe a host of tests to be done, without which they seem unable to come to a proper diagnosis. In the case of Dr. Denis, tests were prescribed only if necessary. And that necessity was very rare indeed.
To Dr. Denis, I was a young boy who came with his mother to get medicine. There was no special treatment but he treated every person as special by giving quality time very genuinely. Probably that is why he is etched in my memory and I think that proves he was an exemplary man. He had a healthy mind, body and soul. He literally and metaphorically touched the lives of everyone who sought his assistance.
I wish him absolute peace in his afterlife.
S.V.D. Kesarralal Gunasekera,
Former Member of Parliament