Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association, 03-April-2009, Vol 122 No 1292
Nalin Rohitha Wijeyesekera
Dr Nalin (Wijey) Wijeyesekera was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) in 1943. He was the fourth son of Nicodemus Wijeyesekera, a prominent public health specialist. Sadly his much loved father died when he was 11 years old. Nicodemus Wijeyesekera was keen that his sons become doctors also and this paternal wish influenced the young Wijey.
He studied medicine in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Ceylon (Colombo) from 1963 to 1968, graduating MB BS in 1969. He began his anaesthesia training in Colombo and passed the London primary FFARCS. In 1971 he passed the ECFMG and in that same year he became aware that the UK was to change its immigration laws meaning that subjects of former British colonies would no longer have entry rights.
Wijey wished to continue his anaesthesia training in the UK so at some personal cost immediately left Ceylon for London and obtained full registration with the GMC in 1972.
The desire to further his training in the UK and the pending immigration law changes meant that his newly formed family was separated for a while, his wife Deepti was not to join him in London until 1973 and their 3-year-old daughter Shamila joined them in 1974.
His first anaesthetic job in the UK was as a registrar in Whittington Hospital, London. Wijey obtained his Final FFARCSI in 1978. In 1980, following a brief stint in the USA, Wijey was appointed as a consultant anaesthetist in Wellington Hospital, New Zealand. He obtained his FANZCA in 1984. He continued in anaesthesia practice in Wellington until 2008.
Wijey’s special interest was neuroanaesthesia and he formed a close partnership with prominent Wellington neurosurgeon Balakrishnan that lasted a practicing lifetime. He enthusiastically volunteered his skills for the newly formed neurovascular and craniofacial unit with David Glasson and Balakrishnan.
His calmness and close contact with the neurosurgeons while performing complex neurosurgery, especially surgery in sitting position, made all the surgeons feel very comfortable working with him. His reputation and techniques for neuroanaesthesia in the sitting position were widely recognised in other neurosurgical units in New Zealand.
Wijey’s high level of skill, experience. and his calm and patient nature endeared him to all of his anaesthetic, surgical, nursing, and technical colleagues and also to generations of Wellington anaesthetic trainees.
Wijey was of the school of anaesthesia where unless you looked carefully you would never be aware of his actions; he was the antithesis of anaesthetic flamboyance. This did not mean that his skills were not of the highest order, quite the contrary. In his last 10 year of practice Wijey divided his time between Wellington Hospital and private anaesthesia practice. He continued in private practice after his retirement and was still working clinically until a few months before his final illness.
Going to work as an anaesthetist was a pleasure to Wijey, and he took genuine pleasure from the daily bandinage that is part of hospital life. Sadly he was predeceased by his adored wife Deepti who died 3 years before his illness. Her loss deeply affected Wijey although of course that would not be obvious except to those who knew him well.
Wijey was a great traveller and intensely interested in what was happening in other countries. He tended to couple his travelling with work as an anaesthetist and would use his annual leave to do locums in other countries, doing this work in Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, and Saudi Arabia. In his younger days he was a keen track athlete and maintained a lifelong interest in cricket.
Wijey was the embodiment of his Buddhist faith in his gentle and dignified manner. Never was this more evident than in his final illness which he accepted with a calmness, serenity, and an utter lack of self pity that was truly remarkable.
He is survived by his much loved daughter Shamila and two grandsons Solomon Nalin Gurr and Jai Lamont Gurr.
Dr Phil Thomas wrote this obituary, which first appeared in New Zealand Anaesthesia (newsletter of the Society of Anaesthetists).
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