The use of regional anaesthesia, a medical procedure where drugs are used to specifically numb or block the sensation of pain in a patient’s specific area of the body, was pioneered by Datuk Dr T. Sachithanandan, one of the first Malaysians to qualify as an anaesthetist.
The procedure, which was developed in Germany 60 years earlier, enabled surgeons to carry out operations while the patient is fully conscious but pain-free. Numerous lives have been saved as a result of Dr Sachi’s (as he was fondly called) work, and his contributions also made it possible for many specialists to receive local training.
His son, Dr Anand Sachithanandan, a cardiothoracic surgeon, has compiled his father’s life’s accomplishments in a book Portrait of a Malaysian Anaesthetist – Pioneer, Leader, Gentleman.
The fascinating details of the anesthetist’s pioneering career during the formative years of the Malaysian healthcare system are highlighted in the book.
Dr Sachi was responsible for the first intensive care unit (ICU) opening its doors at the General Hospital Johor Baru (now renamed Sultanah Aminah Hospital) in 1968.
The ICU was constructed in 1968 at an estimated cost of RM120,000 thanks to support from Junior Chamber International (JCI or Jaycees), a worldwide non-governmental organisation of young leaders and entrepreneurs (of which Dr Sachi was a member).
It was the second of its kind after the ICU at University Hospital in Kuala Lumpur and the first ICU established in a Health Ministry government hospital in Malaysia. It was also the first in Johor.
Dr Sachi was born in Kuala Lumpur, British Malaya, on Aug 2, 1931. He was raised in an upper-middle class Tamil Ceylonese family and was the second youngest of four siblings.
He received his medical degree from Calcutta Medical School in 1957 and on Aug 23, 958, returned home and enlisted in the Malayan Medical Service.
He made a significant contribution in the field of regional anaesthesia, which was then a novel idea. Regional anaesthesia is the selective application of local anaesthetics to numb or block pain perception in a sizeable portion of the body, such as the arm, leg, chest, or abdomen. This enables surgery to be performed on a part of the body while the patient is awake but pain-free.
Sachithanandan died in London during elective heart surgery at the age of 49. Proceeds from the sale of the book will be channelled to the Malaysian Society of Intensive Care and the Lung Cancer Network Malaysia, of which Dr Anand is the founding president. – The Health