Sasanka Alwis is a 17-year-old boy currently living in a vegetative state with permanent brain damage because of an accident that took place three years ago in his College pool.
The Royal College Scout Troop organized a scouting camp, and Sasanka, who was in Grade 9 at the time, took part in the event along with many of his other Grade 9 classmates. However, as fate would have it, something quite unexpected happened, and during a school activity, Sasanka drowned in the College pool.
“I took him to school with a bottle of soft drinks and 25 plastic cups. It was around 12:40 in the afternoon when I went to pick him up,” Sasanka’s mother said, recalling that fateful day.
Sasanka’s mother, who expected nothing of this magnitude to take place, entrusted her only son to the Master in Charge of Scouting like so many other parents did that day. The activities of the day included several water related activities conducted at the college swimming pool, where the students were required to enter the pool.
Sasanka drowned in the pool and was immediately taken to the Colombo National Hospital.
“The Master in Charge told me that Sasanka drowned in the pool and he took him to the hospital. My son was at the ICU and he had to stay there for three months and six days. Then he was taken to the Rehabilitation Centre in Ragama. We made several pleas to take him abroad to treat him, but they said he was already brain dead and so my son was at the Ragama Rehabilitation Centre for two and a half years.”
Whether the school had failed to provide adequate life-saving equipment where there is a student population of nearly 8,000 or whether swift action was taken is shrouded in mystery as no one wants to speak against their alma mater Royal College.
However, the fact remains that Sasanka, a vibrant young Royalist who had much to offer to the school as well as the society in general, is now in an almost permanent vegetative state with irreversible brain injuries.
Sasanka’s story doesn’t end there. After nearly two and half years in the Rehabilitation Centre, Sasanka’s mother was asked to take him home as there was nothing else to be done for him.
Sasanka, who was born the same day his father was cremated after suffering a heart attack, lives in a small house in No. 240/21, Galle Road, Colombo 03 with his mother and sister. He needs to be given physiotherapy twice a day. Doctors have told his mother that if this is continued every day, his chances of regaining some mobility will increase and he might regain his ability to recognize his own mother, as well as movement in his limbs. However, the cost is mighty. For his physiotherapy, the daily cost will be Rs. 3000.
Sasanka’s plight does not end here. They have been given a 14-day notice to remove themselves from their home because the house is scheduled to be demolished for land and road development purposes. They live on a small non-motorable road, which is about five feet wide, between Methodist College and Mercantile Investments.
According to Sasanka’s mother, Geetha Chandani, compensation was provided by the government. However, as fate may have it, Sasanka’s uncles and aunts have all laid claim to a share of this amount, which means it will split in five.
Sasanka’s father’s siblings are laying claim to a share of this amount, despite having houses of their own. Since this small land is partly owned by all of them, legally their claim is valid. However, none of them are willing to give up their share to help their nephew. Sasanka, his mother and sister, will receive an amount of little over Rs 600,000.
Sasanka and his family are now in jeopardy with no one to offer them a word of comfort or provide them with a steady means of assistance. Their house will soon be demolished to expand the Marine Drive, leaving both Sasanka and his family destitute with no proper accommodation and financial assistance to take care of the child.
Life offers little choice to many. However, Sasanka and his family have been continuously bullied by circumstance and life, and they are in need of dire help. It is truly sad that Sasanka lost his entire childhood because of one small accident. The question remains whether his future is in jeopardy too.