On the fateful day of Friday, September 8th, 2023, I was taken aback by the obituary of my dear friend, Dr. Panicker, who had passed away on September 5th, 2023. I was momentarily stunned, as I had been in regular contact with him through WhatsApp every month. His son offered his apologies for not informing me sooner. As I grow older, I have become more accustomed to accepting such somber news, but Dr. Panicker's loss was one that time could not easily heal.

In my earlier blog posts, I shared my experiences living in Arondizuogu, Nigeria. Despite my father's warnings about traveling to a remote village in Africa, I was determined to explore the opportunities there. I tried to persuade my father that it is up to an individual to turn a bad day into a good one. I arrived at my hospital accommodation in Arondizuogu in August 1976 and quickly realized how someone as resolute as me could find themselves plunged into the depths of solitude.

My natural social skills helped me establish a superficial connection with the local community, and I even started playing tennis with some of them. The hospital superintendent lent me his double-barrelled gun for hunting. However, the days remained long and monotonous. Then, one Wednesday evening in October 1976, I heard a knock at my door while watching a black and white TV. I noticed a white VW Beetle parked on the slope leading to my quarters.

Dr. Panicker introduced himself and mentioned that he worked at Oko Community Hospital, about 15 miles from Arondizuogu. I found him to be warm, cheerful, and very helpful. After some pleasantries, he told me about the laid-back nature of the locals and shared insights on dealing with hospital management and patients in Nigeria. He also invited me to his house and provided his address.

In the years that followed, I frequently visited his home on weekends, and we often travelled to other friends houses located 20-30 miles away from Oko in his car. Dr. Vincent, Dr. Pilla, Dr. Solly, and Dr. Das were among our companions, and our gatherings typically involved liquor and card games. When I got married, these social get-togethers shifted to my hospital accommodation. During those times, I noticed that Dr. Panicker had difficulty breathing due to bronchial asthma, which he managed with certain inhalers. Many of our friends were smokers.

Whenever I faced challenges, I turned to him for advice, treating him like an elder brother. Dr. Panicker always had my back when my behaviour fell short of my own standards. I once encountered a setback when one of my patients, who had received a skin graft from me, sought his help because the graft did not take. When we discussed it later, he offered guidance on how to perform a successful skin graft. I cannot recall any instance of unpleasant exchanges with Dr. Panicker.


Towards the end of my tenure at the community hospital, my relationship with the administration had soured. I contemplated leaving Nigeria without notifying my influential employer, who had the power to block my departure by framing false accusations. By that time, I had already passed the PLAB (Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board) test, which would enable me to obtain General Medical Council (GMC) registration and work in the UK.

In February 1981, I discussed my plan with Dr. Panicker to leave Nigeria discreetly. He allowed me to use his car from the day before my departure, as I had to leave my hospital’s  Peugeot 504 in the car park. Dr. Panicker drove my family and me to Enugu airport for our flight to Lagos International Airport, which marked the beginning of our journey to London. He bid us farewell, wishing us luck in the UK.

Since then, I would meet his family whenever they vacationed in the UK. On one such occasion, I visited the hotel where they were staying in London with my eldest daughter. Dr. Panicker asked my daughter about her aspirations, and she casually replied, "I don't know yet." From that day on, whenever he saw her or mentioned her, he playfully remarked, "I don't know yet." During my time working in Benenden, Kent, his family stayed with us for a while.

In 1988, during a visit to India, we went to Dr. Panicker's home in Trivandrum, and we all had a delightful time. Eventually, he moved to a village near Calicut, and we visited his family in 2015. At that time, he was in poor health, suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and relied on medications, including steroids. Until August 2023, I continued to call him once a month for brief chats, as extended conversations could trigger his coughing fits.

Dr. Panicker departed this world, leaving behind a legacy of love, kindness, and cherished memories that will forever warm my heart. He possessed a unique ability to brighten any room with his contagious laughter and genuine compassion for others. Since I opened the door of my hospital accommodation in 1976, I also opened the door to a genuine friendship that became an integral part of my life.

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Dr.C.J.George FRCS

This blog is about my experience as a doctor working in various countries in different clinical set up. This experience spans through 45 years, in which I acquired a lot of favourable contacts and unfavourable encounters. I shall dig deep into them and make it interesting to the readers. Unlike others in the profession, I worked as a community medical officer in a remote areas, prison medical officer, benefit service medical officer, in cardiac surgery in prestigious institutions and as a private doctor. I was managing my own businesses, and real estate in three continents. I hope the information I impart will be valuable to the like minded readers.

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