It was October 7. The time was about 6.00pm. There was call from one of my Senior House Officers. I responded thinking it would be about a patient under my care. However, what was conveyed to me was totally unexpected. It left me in complete disbelief when I heard that Dr.Y. K. M. Lahie MBBS, MS, FRCS, Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon had passed away. After making inquiries the death was confirmed.
I had known Dr.Yoosoof Kamil Mohamed Lahie for almost 30 years. After my internship I was appointed as a Senior House Officer to the Cardiothoracic Unit of the National Hospital of Sri Lanka, where Dr. Lahie was a Senior Registrar. Although we worked under two different consultants I always used to admire this handsome budding surgeon with sharp eyes and quick reflexes coming for the surgeries along with his consultant.
After an excellent education stint in England Dr. Lahie returned to Sri Lanka in 1994 as a fully-fledged Cardiothoracic Surgeon. By then, it had been over 40 years since the speciality of Cardiothoracic Surgery had got established in this country. However, it had not progressed enough to match international standards. Thus, there was an urgent need to establish a modern and advanced Cardiothoracic Surgical programme in the government sector.
Dr. Lahie had been one of the pioneers who shouldered this humongous responsibility of establishing an advanced cardiothoracic surgical service in the National Hospital of Sri Lanka.
After an excellent education stint in England Dr. Lahie returned to Sri Lanka in 1994 as a fully-fledged Cardiothoracic Surgeon. By then, it had been over 40 years since the speciality of Cardiothoracic Surgery had got established in this country. However, it had not progressed enough to match international standards. Thus, there was an urgent need to establish a modern and advanced Cardiothoracic Surgical programme in the government sector
Cardiothoracic surgery is unique among all the surgical specialities. Whenever a new surgical programme is launched, especially in such a demanding field, it is of paramount importance to produce good results from the very outset. Should the results be unsatisfactory, the patients will be disinclined to opt for operations, nor would they be referred to by cardiologists. By nature, Dr. Lahie was always ready to take up challenges. He produced the results.
His surgical skills were incomparable. His manual dexterity was impeccable and his judgments were exceptional.
When I finished my local postgraduate exam and decided to choose cardiothoracic surgery as my area of specialization, I did not even have a moment’s hesitation in selecting Dr. Lahie as my trainer.
He introduced a new culture in training. Up to then it had been self learning for me by watching surgeries and by assisting the surgeon. He changed this tradition. I was always encouraged to take responsibilities, to make my own judgments and then make decisions while he was watching from behind. Not only me, others too were trained in the same way.
We know, Dr. Lahie himself as a trainee did not have this privilege. Most of the surgeries he had learned were self taught through trial and error methods. He never had any reservations in sharing his hard earned knowledge.
Dr Lahie was a thorough gentleman. He used to maintain very cordial relationships with everybody he worked with. He was very unassuming. Whenever there was a problem he had the habit of getting the opinion of the trainees as well.
He was loved by everybody who worked with him. I had never seen him lose his temper.
With his untimely death we have lost a pioneer in modern cardiac surgery and a skilful surgeon who had given life to thousands of patients over the past 27 years or so. He never felt tired when operating. After retiring from the government service he joined the Kothalawala Defence Hospital to continue with his passion. It is with profound sadness I recollect the last conversation I had with him. In that conversation he talked a lot about establishing this new cardiac surgical unit at the Defence Hospital and asked for my views. Though he had achieved a lot it is sad that he couldn’t accomplish the dream of starting cardiac surgery at the Defence Hospital.
He leaves behind his wife Fathima Minna, son Dr.Hussain and daughter Sabreena. Although he left us his contributions for the upliftment of cardiothoracic surgical services in Sri Lanka he will remain forever in the hearts of the people in this country. Good bye sir. May the gates of heaven be open to you.
(Dr. Iresh Wijemanne MBBS, MS, FRCS, Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon, National Hospital of Sri Lanka, Colombo)