Anaesthesiologist Dr Ian Sundararaj

The Sankara Nethralaya family bids a most befitting and emotional farewell to one of its stalwarts!

The evening of Saturday the 4th of November 2017 is sure to go down in Sankara Nethralaya’s collective memory as one of its most poignant moments, the institution was bidding farewell to one of its oldest ‘warriors’ against blindness and members of the Sankara Nethralaya family from across disciplines and levels had gathered in good numbers to pay their tribute and bid goodbye to its 7th oldest employee, a man who personified dedication, sincerity and humility in his 33 years of glorious service.

It was a fascinating journey down the times as speaker after speaker shared their experiences with him, their recollections bringing out the innovator, scientist, teacher, team player and the warm and humble human being that Dr Ian Sundararajan, fondly referred to as ISR was perceived by them. Program presenter Dr Sonali Raman, Senior Consultant, department of anaesthesiology gave the proceedings a vibrant start with her exuberant observation that the period that Dr ISR was associated with Sankara Nethralaya could be called the golden era of anaesthesiology, she captured the involvement and spirit of the man who had made Sankara Nethralaya his first home for 33 long years with a most touching couplet.

Speaking on the occasion senior Consultant and Medical Director Dr Girish Shiva Rao observed that Dr ISR left an indelible mark on whatever he did, with his innovations and resourcefulness, which were nothing short of sensational. Saluting his sterling role, he expressed that Dr ISR was among the few men who left a deep impression on him through his abundant knowledge. Lauding Dr ISR as a hallmark of hard work, he expressed the collective gratitude of all the Surgeons at Sankara Nethralaya who owed their success to his expertise and co-operation. Dr TS.Surendran, Vice-Chairman and Director of Pediatric ophthalmology began his talk with a note that it would be impossible to capture all of what he called the ‘Treasures’ of his association with Dr ISR and that he would recall just a few of them. He described the veteran anaesthesiologist as a man who was constantly reviewing the operation theatre to explore scope for changes, enhancements that could make it a safer and easier procedure for the surgeon and his patient. He recalled the matchless dedication exhibited by Dr ISR during the brief strike by the support staff, when he would personally shift the patients to the anaesthesiology room and back to the OT after being anaesthetised, which ensured that all the 13 surgeries scheduled for him could be performed without a hitch. Beaming with a sense of pride and attachment Dr Lingam Gopal, Senior Consultant at the Vitreo Retina department started his note with an observation that he had the privilege of having the longest association with Dr ISR, he described him as a genial genius who made jaws drop with his innovation, a never say die workaholic who accepted sudden additions to his long patient list for the day with admirable readiness and smile. Dr Lingam Gopal expressed the collective tribute of the surgeons of the Vitreo retina department to the amazing anaesthetist who made their surgeries a great success and his gratitude to a great man who made every one strive for excellence by setting a great personal example.  If Dr ISR was recalled as an amazing anaesthetist, a permanent feature in the operation theatre while the surgeons took their turn, a man of incredible energy levels and confidence who never shied of taking challenging cases in his stride, by Senior Consultants Dr L.Vijaya and Dr Nirmala Subramanian, he was recalled as a calming influence, giving the others in the OT a sense of calmness by his composure and reassuring presence, by Dr Vineet Rathra.  While the OT assistants and maintenance staff hailed him as a warm, simple and patient man who never once lost his temper or been rude to them, the head of patient counselling and education Shri Irungovel highlighted a little known facet of his personality, his ‘poetic skills’. Dr ISR’s daughter, son-in-law and grand children brought out the caring, loving persona in him while Dr Bhanulakshmi from New Zealand wondered aloud if someone could even think of Sankara Nethralaya without Dr ISR and vice versa??

Delivering his acceptance speech a visibly moved Dr ISR started on a highly emotive note that he would serve in Sankara Nethralaya if he were to be born again, he expressed his sincere thanks to Dr SS.Badrinath whom he described as the moving force behind starting and developing ophthalmic anaesthesia as a specialty in India, when it was still unheard of in most eye care centres. He expressed his happiness on the decision to resign from government service and join Sankara Nethralaya that he had taken years ago, as he would have gone unnoticed if he had not done so.

While every speaker of the evening had expressed his/her good wishes for a restful, peaceful and healthy retired life to the veteran who was calling it a day, the observations of the person whom they were bidding farewell seemed to reveal a different agenda, he started off on a couple of strong observations ‘We should develop paediatric anaesthesia as a specialty’, ‘We should share the experience, expertise and knowledge gained by our long years in the practice of ophthalmic anaesthesia and the treatment of a large number of cases,’  ‘Our learning and experience should not go in vain and we should share it with the world by publishing a book’. These were typical Dr ISR observations to those who knew him well, the word ‘We’ in every objective he underlined making the assembled gathering wonder if the irrepressible teacher and anaesthetist was just about to begin another glorious innings for his cherished institution!!