You know those moments in life when you see the stars align and the lines fall in pleasant places for you? Well, this is one of those moments for me! About two weeks ago, I moved my whole life to Kenya for the next five years. Yep, 5 years!
I'm starting an Orthopaedic Surgery residency at one of the best Universities in Africa. Do you know how amazing that feels? This is one of my biggest dreams come true. Yet, it feels so surreal. I have to constantly remind myself that, yes, this is happening. This post is not to bore you with how I got through the exams and interviews or the application process. Today, I am just celebrating this victory. A few years ago, I did not imagine I'd be here at this moment today. My heart is so full. I am so grateful to God for grace, favour, and blessings that I often take for granted. Believe me when I tell you that my being here... It can only be God! I am really heavy on the 'Thank You Lord.'
I can't believe that in 5 years, I will be a certified Orthopaedic Surgeon and probably the first female Ortho doc Sierra Leone has ever seen! Just saying that out loud feels so good! If you know me or have been following Scrubs, Scalpels, and High Heels, then you know that this means so much to me, and you would get why I am beyond thrilled. I am really passionate about Orthopaedics & Trauma care. Every path I take in my career is directed towards improving access and quality of surgical care, particularly in Ortho/Trauma. This residency is basically everything I have worked so hard for in the last five years.
"I'm going to be a mighty Queen, mightier than before. I might be working on my roar but look left, look right, I am standing tall in the spotlight." (Adapted from Amanda Gorman)
I finally get to use the hashtag #ILookLikeASurgeon as a registered female surgeon in training. This hashtag says, 'this is me!' It brings to life everything I am- a strong, authentic black queen, a surgeon, a force of nature, an intelligent, beautiful, hardworking, and capable woman. I absolutely love everything this hashtag encompasses and how it creates a platform for women's voices in Surgery. Still, I hope that soon, we will establish our place in the field of Surgery, so hashtags like #ILookLikeASurgeon will be obsolete.
I would be lying if I said this win is all mine. I work hard alright, but I have a great support system. I have so many people to thank for this. I am eternally grateful to all of you who have supported me morally, financially, and spiritually in this journey- friends, family, mentors, colleagues, sometimes complete strangers. When I applied for this training earlier this year, I thought I had a plan, but things did not work out the way I hoped. By the time I was offered admission, I had no idea how to fund my training for all five years. My mind was in constant overdrive, trying to figure everything out. I was going crazy with writing letters and sending emails to ask for scholarships and sponsorships.
I had been given this incredible opportunity, so there was no way I wouldn't try every possible avenue to make it happen. Even if some of them were a long, long shot. It was such a stressful period. Because me being me, I wanted to have a plan for all five years. I told a friend how worried I was that I might not be able to start the training this year. She advised me to take it one step at a time, one year at a time, that I didn't need to have everything figured out right now. My twin brother also kept reminding me that the will of God will not take me where the Grace of God will not protect me. So I took a leap of faith and trusted that everything would work itself out. And it did! People have come through for me in ways I couldn't start to fathom. And now, I have been offered a full scholarship by the AO Alliance. Imagine that!! The AO Foundation and AO Alliance are a big deal in Orthopaedic Surgery. Words can never be enough to say how blessed I feel and how grateful I am for these extraordinary opportunities. I am so humbled and entirely overwhelmed by love and support. I don't take having a whole army of pretty awesome people who support my dreams, pray for me, root for me all the time, and never give up on me for granted.
I am glad I have the opportunity to live and chase my dreams, but at the same time, I am downhearted to leave my friends and family behind. I worry about them. I worry about leaving them at the mercy of Sierra Leone's very fragile health system. I miss them so much already. I miss work. I miss the euphoria I felt walking down the corridors to the theatre every morning. The OTs were my happy place. I miss the adrenaline rush on days when OPD was wild. Emergency hospital was my home for many years; I had a family at work. We laughed and cried together, celebrated victories, and mourned losses together (just look at all the pictures! P.S: Let's also call today Photo Dump Day!). The day I handed in my resignation letter was the day it started to sink in that this was really happening. I was leaving home. I was crying long before I had to say the real goodbyes. Goodbyes are the hardest. Some parts of me really wanted to go, but some part of me was really heartbroken. It was the end of an era.
I am so thrilled but also so nervous about moving to a new country. It is true that "when nothing is sure, everything is possible." Still, the unknown with all its possibilities makes me anxious. Relocation can be daunting. I worry about how I'd survive the next few years in a new setting, new cultures, new expectations- Will I be as good as I need to be at my training? Will I have the same confidence in my work as I did back home? Will I get too homesick? How uncomfortable will I be around my new colleagues? Will I make new friends? Will I learn Swahili? I think about all sorts of things. But honestly, all my fears don't compare to the exhilaration of progress and the thought of becoming an Ortho Surgeon in the next few years. Plus, Nairobi is a beautiful city, and I can't wait to explore it. This training is all I have thought about and worked for in the last few years, and it's really happening. I prayed for a day like that for me, all those times online that I would see doctors getting matched or accepted into their dream specialties. And my God willed it!
The day I got my plane ticket, I was feeling a bit down in the dumps. So I texted one of my mentors in Surgery to tell him that I was having such a crappy day even though I was supposed to be over the hills happy. This is what he said to me: "Don't worry Cella, be confident! We all trust in you. Your wings are now big and strong, just open them up in the sky and fly!" I needed to hear those words. My wings are ready, strong enough. "I'm going to be a mighty Queen, mightier than before. I might be working on my roar but look left, look right, I am standing tall in the spotlight." I am ecstatic and looking forward to the future and the endless possibilities this new city and new opportunity brings me. I am prepared to be challenged and to evolve into an exceptional version of myself. Man, I am so proud of myself for coming this far! Only God knows how challenging the last year has been for me.
Like I always say at the beginning and end of each new life journey, 'every finish line is the beginning of a new race.' I am now one more step closer to where and who I want to be. Surgery residency is demanding, and life as I knew it is not the same anymore. But I know in my heart that eventually, everything will fall into place seamlessly. And I will be sure to keep you guys updated on my life in Nairobi (as much as I can).
Until the next blog post,
Your Ortho Resident😍