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Published on November 06, 2018

World War II Veteran and Abington - Jefferson Health Cardiologist Forge A Special Bond

For the past decade, Peter Bandy, a 94-year-old World War II veteran, has considered Abington – Jefferson Heath cardiologist Asoka Balaratna, MD to be an exceptional physician. After a special weekend this past summer, Peter now also considers Dr. Balaratna a good friend.

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Dr. Balaratna (left) and
Peter Bandy (right)

Ten years ago, Peter Bandy was taken to Abington Hospital’s Emergency Trauma Center after experiencing dizziness, fatigue and chest pain. He was diagnosed with aortic valve stenosis and multiple cardiac artery blockages. His care was assigned to Asoka Balaratna, MD who performed a cardiac catherization and placed stents in his arteries. He also had an aortic valve replacement surgery at Abington Hospital at that time.

Fast-forward ten years. Peter has visited Dr. Balaratna countless times for follow-up appointments every six months. Throughout the years, the two have gotten to know each other quite well and have bonded over airplanes and World War II. Peter, a veteran of the Army Air Corps, often shares stories of his time in the service during WWII. Dr. Balaratna has always found this particularly interesting because he has an interest in World War II history and airplanes.

During World War II, Peter was stationed in England and was a member of the 303rd Bombardment Group called “Hell’s Angels”, the first bombardment group to complete 300 missions from American air force bases in England. Peter survived 35 bombing missions over Nazi-occupied Germany and Europe as a waist-gunner on a B-17 bomber. Because of their shared interest, years ago, he gave Dr. Balaratna a photograph of himself with the “Hell’s Angels”. Over the years, Peter has signed and dated the photograph each time he had an appointment with Dr. Balaratna.

“Not only has Dr. Balaratna always provided me with excellent treatment and care, but he’s very personable and truly enjoys getting to know his patients, which makes a difference,” Peter says.

Today, Peter is feeling healthy and active. He enjoys helping his son, Harry, with maintenance projects at a variety of rental properties. Peter attributes his good health and longevity to his daily walks and the care he receives from Dr. Balaratna and other Abington – Jefferson Health physicians. In fact, he’s doing so well that Dr. Balaratna decided to take him out for a special occasion.

Thoughtfully Dr. Balaratna invited Peter and Harry to the Reading Mid-Atlantic Air Memorial World War II Weekend—an annual air show he thought Peter would enjoy. The three men and Dr. Balaratna’s son attended the air show in June.

“It was such a kind gesture on Dr. Balaratna’s part,” says Peter. “I had a lot of fun spending the day with him, and it brought up so many memories of my time in the service.”

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Peter Bandy inside a B-17 plane

The foursome had a chance to see and learn about memorabilia, restored equipment and aircraft used during World War II.

“Dr. Balaratna even treated us both to a ride on a B-17—the same kind of plane my father flew in back in his service days,” Harry explains. Peter was a sergeant who served as a waist gunner on the Thunderbird.

“Peter is truly a remarkable man,” says Dr. Balaratna. “I’ve enjoyed getting to know him over the years and wanted to do something special for him.”

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Peter Bandy climbing into
a B-17 plane

In order to get in and out of the B-17, the men had to crawl through a small, angled doorway, which Peter had no trouble doing, thanks to his good health.

Peter hadn’t flown in a B-17 airplane since 1944, and it was a very emotional and memorable experience for everyone involved, including the pilot. Peter immediately recognized the distinct sound and smell of the plane engine and smiled for the duration of the flight while sharing tidbits about his earlier days of flying.

“Dr. Balaratna is a cardiologist with a big heart,” says Peter’s daughter-in-law, Connie Bandy. “Words cannot express the joy and gratitude that he brought to my father-in-law with this very generous and heart-warming gift of spending the day with him and honoring his service to this country.”

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