A PIOUS GENTLEMAN AND GREAT ANAESTHETIST
My wife and I started worshipping at Christ Church, Galkissa in 1975,a few years after marriage, when we came to live in Dehiwala. We attended the 6.00 a.m. service on Sunday and Dr. Thistle, Mrs. Jayawardene and the children were there every Sunday at the first service for the day -- I don’t think this family ever missed a Sunday service. I believe I am correct when I say even during the last few years when he lived by himself, he never failed to come for his Sunday morning worship in spite of physical difficulties. It was during the last few weeks when he was not too well that we missed him in church. A man of very gentle disposition, always with a smile and a greeting to everyone, even a stranger, I remember him as a gentle giant, always immaculately attired in white.
We all knew he was a leading medical professional, a highly-qualified anaesthetist who later became the President of the College of Anaesthetists. But we, non-medical persons, never knew of his great achievements in the professional arena as he kept them to himself. It was only when we read in the newspapers last year about arrangements being made to mark the 50th anniversary of the very first intensive care unit in Sri Lanka at the General Hospital that we learnt Dr. Thistle was the man behind it!
Evidently, when Sri Lanka was getting ready to perform open heart surgery and similar major operations for the first time, Dr. Thistle had taken up the position that this could be successfully done only if ICU facilities were available and he gave leadership to establish the first such unit.
We noticed his gentleness and kindness in our church community; and many friends in the medical profession have told me what a gentle guru he was. A beloved sir who taught them everything, everything he knew, to make them good professionals.
It was some years later that I served on the Board of Wardens of Christ Church, Galkissa together with Dr. Thistle. Indeed, I counted it a personal honour and a privilege to have served as a warden with him. I remember him as a man of few words, but whenever he spoke we all listened and acted in terms of his advice.
In addition to his service and contribution in the medical field and in this parish, he served for many years as a member of the Board of Governors of S. Thomas’ College, his old school.
I was also privileged to serve with him for many years on the Board of Trustees of Ceylon Schools for the Deaf and Blind which manage the two schools in Ratmalana and Kaithadi, Jaffna.
Dr. Thistle in addition to his professional work found the time to be Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees. The dayto-day business of running the schools is done by this committee which meets once a month.
All of us who served this committee found it to be an enthralling experience. Running these schools was not easy and here was a chairman who never got angry and got the best out of all those who served these special schools, both professionals and volunteers. Again, it was a learning experience to us all.
During our lifetime, we must count it an honour, privilege and blessing to meet, associate and work with persons of the calibre of Dr. Thistle. May his soul rest in peace! EKSITH FERNANDO, DEHIWALA