When Malkie Ratnayake met Dr Brindha Shivalingam, she experienced a great relief – here was a neurosurgeon who put Malkie at ease.
“The first thing Dr Shivalingam did was take the MRI scan and say, ‘do you know what you’re looking for here?’” My partner and I looked at each other and said, ‘Not a clue,’.
The moment she said, ‘OK, let’s start from the beginning,’ was when I made up my mind,” says Malkie.
Malkie and her partner, Heather Oxenham, came to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse because of the growing adenoma that was pressing on her pituitary gland. Malkie says Dr Shivalingam was the first doctor she felt was talking to her, rather than at her. Not only did Dr Shivalingam take the time to explain Malkie’s situation, she also presented the information in a calm, straightforward manner that was honest but also optimistic.
“She didn’t hold anything back, but she didn’t overstate anything. You know it’s truthful and you know the risks, but you don’t leave her office feeling terrified,” Heather says. “It was the emotional and physical well-being that she offered.”
“I was scared to have this massive operation. Every time I met with another surgeon, I walked out thinking I was to die,” says Malkie, who now laughs when recalling the moment Heather suggested any new surgeon. “I thought to myself, ‘oh god another one.’ I was so scared because everyone was talking at me.”
Impending neurosurgery was not the only cause of stress for Malkie this year. In late April, she had returned to her native Sri Lanka, where her mother passed away in early May. At the same time, Malkie’s tumour had progressed to the point where she was experiencing double vision. Meeting Dr Shivalingam completely shifted Malkie’s perspective on the surgery – she believes her mother sent her to Dr. Shivalingam.
“I’m so comfortable with her. I can trust her,” Malkie says. “You have to have this relationship with the person.”
As a Buddhist, Malkie follows a family tradition of consulting with a Buddhist monk for auspicious dates and times for major events. Dr Shivalingam and her team ensured that Malkie’s surgery fell on 1 June, a date that the monk recommended, without the prejudice that Malkie says she would have expected elsewhere.
“I was so comfortable to discuss this with Dr Shivalingam,” Malkie says, recalling leaving the house that day. “I was so relaxed and ready for this journey.”
Malkie’s surgery was assisted by the BrainLab Neuronavigation System, which enables image-guided neurosurgery. Thanks to our generous donors, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse was able to purchase this state-of-the-art equipment that allows surgeons like Dr Shivalingam to perform the most precise and least invasive procedures possible.
Malkie comes from a background in Ayurveda, but the holistic approach offered by Chris O’Brien Lifehouse was not a factor in the couple coming here for treatment. It was about the feeling she got from her specialist and Dr Shivalingam turned out to be the perfect match.
Pictured: Malkie Ratnayake (left) and her partner Heather Oxenham (right) at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.