Senior cadet Sashinya “Sasha” Desilva, who has been a student at Admiral Farragut Academy since the 8th grade, is passionate about helping others. This summer, she demonstrated that kindness in an altruistic way by securing funds to donate medications to cancer victims in Sri Lanka, further exemplifying the effect Farragut students have on the rest of the world. Over the course of a couple months leading up to her June 8 departure for Sri Lanka, Sasha and her family raised 267,693.79 LKR ($2,000.66) in cash and checks for the cancer patients of the Kandy General Hospital in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

The following is a portion of journal written by Sasha about her experience:

I wanted to help others

I have long wanted to do a community service project in my home country of Sri Lanka, and this seems to be the perfect opportunity.

In Sri Lanka, there is a nationalized healthcare system so that patients do not have to pay to see a doctor and do not have to pay for their medications. But because of the volume of patients the hospitals of Sri Lanka receive, the hospitals often lack the funds to give medications to patients and run out of medications very quickly. Only the wealthier patients get their medications by buying them from private pharmacies. However, most patients fall through the cracks and cannot afford the drugs they need. My mother once told me that during her employment as a doctor in Sri Lanka, most of her paycheck went to patients so they could buy their medications.

My aunt, Anoma Desilva, who is a physician at Kandy Hospital, the second largest hospital in Sri Lanka, informed me of this problem. Her cancer patients are receiving chemotherapy which induces symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. To stop such symptoms from the chemotherapy, the drug Emiset or Ondansetron must be taken by patients. Since Kandy Hospital lacks the funds to provide their cancer patients with the drug Emiset, most of my Aunt’s patients, who are poor, must undergo chemotherapy with all the horrendous side effects. The drug Emiset costs around 700 Lanka Rupees, which translated into dollars, is about $7 – $8. Although this amount of money may seem small, it is often a week’s wage for most of my aunt’s patients. My family leaves for Sri Lanka on June 8, and I was determined to help.

What we raised

Together, we raised 267,693.79 LKR ($2,000.66) in cash and checks for the cancer patients of the Kandy General Hospital in Kandy, Sri Lanka. The breakdown of how the money was spent is as follows:

  • 98,733.42 LKR ($737.90) was used to purchase the following drugs which will be needed to treat the side effects of chemotherapy to help the patients tolerate their chemotherapy regimen.
    • 200 units of Dexamethasone
    • 300 units of Emiset
    • 100 units of Chloropheniramine
    • 50 units of Daktarin oral gel
    • 72 units of Gaviscon oral suspension 200ml
    • 480 units of Gaviscon DA Tab
  • 27,932.50 LKR ($208.76) for nutritious items such as  biscuits, dry milk powder, and additional nutritional supplement for those who could not take in solid foods.
  • The checks totaling $904.00 were handed over to the hospital accountant with all the details, and the Director of the Kandy General Hospital took the responsibility to use that money for the benefit of the cancer patients. An additional $150.00 in checks were later mailed also to be used for the benefit of Kandy General Hospital’s cancer patients.

Visiting Kandy General Hospital in Sri Lanka

Sasha DeSilva '16 raises funding for cancer patients in Sri Lanka 1On June 20, I visited the Cancer Wards at the Kandy General Hospital to give all the items mentioned above. Kandy General Hospital is the second largest hospital in Sri Lanka and has a very large referral base. Due to the limitations in space and an increase in number of cancer patients, in the female cancer ward, there is a ratio of two to three patients to one bed. In the female cancer ward, there are often two patients in a bed and the rest are receiving chemotherapy in plastic chairs. The male cancer ward is in a large aluminum shed as they await transfer to a larger cancer center. In the outpatient unit, there is only a radio to occupy patients as they receive chemotherapy and some of the money from the checks will be used to purchase a television set for the patients.

It was very eye-opening and heart-breaking to walk into these wards and see these patients. The directors of both the female and male cancer wards were cheerful yet tired and spoke of patient overcrowding and lack of funds for certain chemotherapy drugs.

Sri Lanka is very proud to offer free healthcare to its patients but hospitals, especially ones as large as the Kandy Hospital, often lack funds to provide their patients with such health care. These Sri Lankan hospitals rely heavily on donations from people to provide these free services to its generally poor patients. On a positive note, Kandy General Hospital is currently building a new, 10-story cancer treatment center to accommodate the rising number of patients.