Obituary - Dr K A Thistle W P Jayawardene

1928 to 2019

Dr Jayawardene obtained the DA (London) in 1962 and the FFARCS England in 1963. Returning to Sri Lanka he served as consultant anaesthetist at two Provincial General Hospitals and in November 1965 was appointed consultant anaesthetist, cardiothoracic unit, General Hospital, Colombo. This was a post created to commence open heart surgery in Sri Lanka. He and five others spent four months in the USA studying aspects of cardiopulmonary bypass surgery. On their return, Dr Jayawardene was entrusted by the Ministry of Health to plan, design, implement and manage the proposed intensive care unit for the management of cardiac surgical patients. Sri Lanka’s first intensive care unit was opened on 16 June 1968 with Dr Jayawardene in charge.

Dr Jayawardene managed to change the impression that the only job anaesthetists did was to ‘put patients to sleep during surgical operations.’ He was consulted in most cases of respiratory failure in the hospital and was invited to lecture to postgraduate trainees in medicine, surgery, forensic medicine and pathology in addition to anaesthesiology. He was elected a fellow of the American College of Cardiology and was vice-president, Sri Lanka Heart Association for 14 years. He officially retired in 1988 but his services were retained in a supernumerary capacity until 1994.

He helped establish intensive care units at the Military Hospital, Colombo, Children’s Hospital, Colombo, the Colombo South Hospital, and two private sector hospitals – Asha Central and Durdans’.  Subsequently he functioned as vice-president, critical care at Durdans’ Hospital until his retirement in 2007.

Dr Jayawardene was an examiner for the MD (Anaesthesiology) Part 1 examination 1981–1982 and for the Part 2 examination from its inception in 1983 to 1995. He was on the board of management of the Postgraduate Institute of Medicine from its inception to his retirement and was chairman of the Board of Study in Anaesthesiology for two terms. He was made an honorary senior fellow of the Institute in 2007.

Dr Jayawardene was the president of the College of Anaesthesiologists of Sri Lanka from 1983 to 1985. The first academic sessions of the College were held during his presidency. In 2015 he was elected the first fellow of the College.

Dr Jayawardene has won the award for the best paper presented at the Annual Anniversary Sessions of the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) and delivered the SC Paul Oration of the SLMA. He was elected resident of the SLMA in 1991 – the first anaesthetist to be so elected.

Outside the medical field, Dr Jayawardene has held office in the standing committee of the Church of Ceylon, the Board of Governors of St Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia and the Board of Trustees, Deaf and Blind Schools, Ratmalana.

In recognition of his services to medicine in particular and the country in general, Dr Jayawardene was awarded the Vishva Prasadhini Award in 1996.

Dr Jayawardene was a gentle and compassionate human being. A deeply religious person he was a silent philanthropist.

Jayantha Jayasuriya
Past President, College of Anaesthesiologists and Intensivists of Sri Lanka