This is unbelievable!
The man who survived the stake

man1.jpg (13643 bytes)by Chandrasiri Dodangoda
(Translated by Malinda Seneviratne)
This is a story that no one will believe. And yet it actually happened. It is a true story. Look at the photograph below. It shows a man sprawled on a hospital bed. Look closely. A post has entered one side of his body and come out on the other. The post is four feet long and has a circumference of about four inches.

You might wonder if any life can remain within a body that has been thus impaled. The truth is that this man is still alive and breathing. In fact he was able to talk without any difficulty.

His name is Victor Premaratne. He is 44 years old. He is a toddy tapper and had begun work as a fourteen year old boy. For the past thirty years this is all he has done. Climbing trees. Even as a child it has been his practice to climb a few coconut trees, tap the flowers to collect thelijja. He studied science for his A/Ls. But toddy tapping was the profession he had to choose.

Toddy tapping or gas medeema might be an unfamiliar term to many. Even if it was known not many understand the process. What is done is this: the coconut flower is crushed, finely cut and the juice collected. It can be turned into toddy or into treacle.

On the 1st of June, which was a Saturday, Victor Premaratne, as was his custom, took along the instruments of his trade and went to work. He went from tree to tree doing what he has been doing for the past thirty years. He was now on his tenth tree for the day. The tree was about 60 feet tall. He was just preparing to "cut" the flower. Something that had never happened before happened. He fell. The tenth tree was on the very edge of the coconut plantation. As though he was deliberately seeking a target, Premaratne hurtled directly on the pointed post that was part of a barbed wire fence. It came out from the other side of his body. That is all that Premaratne can remember.

Everyone came running. They could not believe their eyes when they saw the way in which Premaratne was caught in the fence post. Thoroughly excited, they reacted promptly. They did one sensible thing. They removed the post with Premaratne still impaled upon it. They took him immediately in a van to the Chilaw hospital.

The corridors of the hospital automatically cleared as this strangest of accident victims was brought in. The attendants sped him away on a trolley straight to the operating theatre. Because of the post sticking through him they couldn’t take him through the door. He was taken off the trolley and carefully manoeuvred in just like a bulky bed or cupboard is pushed through a door. Surprisingly, by this time, Premaratne was conscious enough to give his name and address.

Dr. Jude Wijesekera, the surgeon and his team quickly donned their operating clothes. Dr. Damitha Wijewardena quickly anaesthetised the patient. Needless to say, Dr. Wijesekera, although having operated on countless patients had never encountered a case like this. He made an incision more than 10 inches long across Premaratne’s stomach. The team thought it would be best to cut away as much as possible of the post before trying to remove it completely. Employing a saw used to cut bones, they set to work and removed the sections that were jutting out of the body. And then, very carefully, the rest of the post was removed.

The main part of the operation was now done. There was still dirt, wood chips and other foreign objects inside the patient’s body. These too were carefully removed and the wound sutured. The operation had taken one and a half hours. The monitoring machines indicated that although subject to such an ordeal, the patient’s heart was functioning well. The medical team heaved a collective sigh of relief.

When we went to the Chilaw hospital, the patient was gradually recovering, although still in the Intensive Care Unit.

"I do not know how I fell from the tree. I cannot remember anything," he said.

"Until then I had thought that hospitals were places where patients did not receive proper attention and care. However, I got the best treatment and care possible. I am alive today because of these doctors. The nurses, the attendants, everybody in fact, have been very kind to me and have looked after me very well."

We asked Dr. Wijesekera how this man survived this strange and frightening accident.

"What is really amazing is that none of his vital organs were damaged. The main arteries and veins were spared. Otherwise there would have been excessive bleeding on account of which he might have died. He has been extremely fortunate.

"His intestine, however, were damaged in three places. We repaired these. We are now treating his wound. He is very lucky. If they had tried to remove the post then and there his condition might have deteriorated fast. It was good that he was brought here immediately."

This is a rare accident. An accident that is in fact hard to believe. And yet the man sill lives. That alone is a miracle. Maybe it is not without cause that our villagers say that if one is lucky, he cannot be killed even by slamming him against a rock or a tree.