So, the fact that I have written anything in so long tells you how crazy my new life has been. This year has been many things. I've had to deal with so many mental and emotional challenges, and every day demands a better version of me but anyway, we are here! And it's almost Christmas! So yaay!
Moving away from home has been one hell of a roller coaster ride. I lost my balance when I moved. I have been dealing with so much, I miss my support system. I miss having late night chats and talking about my joys and woes over a bowl of cereal or something with my twin. I miss having my friends for random hangouts to celebrate victories or to just chat about how crazy life has been. I still feel unsettled, but I am learning to take it one day, one thought and one step at a time. I am trying to make friends, explore the city and get acquainted with my new community. I just had my last exams for this year, so I'm taking some time off to just breathe. Ooof! I thought an excellent way to get my head out of all the Anatomy and Physiology is to write. So much has happened in the last few months. This post is dedicated to keeping it real, catching up and sharing some of the things I have been up to with you. Believe me, each of these moments deserve a blog post on their own because I have so much to say but life!🤦🏾♀️
Okay, first, the elephant in the room- residency!
Sighs! It's been 15 weeks since I moved to a new city and donned on a white coat with Orthopaedic Surgery written next to my name. Life has been way tougher than I thought it would be. These last few months have been sweat and tears. I feel like I am right back in medical school, learning the molecular basis of things. I am glad that I get to go back to the basics and build an even stronger foundation, but it is hard... really hard! I won't even lie. I'm just going to say we need to do better with undergrad medical education back home. There are days when I feel so exhausted and lost trying to keep up. I am always consciously and unconsciously comparing myself to the Kenyan and other international graduates while attempting to understand and navigate my way in this new system. The unknown makes me anxious, but the new experiences are exhilarating. There are days when I second guess and question myself, but there are also days when I have complete clarity and bliss, and I feel so proud of how far I've come. I have come to terms with the fact that this journey will challenge me beyond limits and push me to be a better version of myself and to face and conquer my fears. And I will have to remind myself every day that all this chaos and struggle will be worth it in the end.
Trauma and I are really a true love story.
I have also had some pretty high highs in the last few months. I was so excited to have my first paper as the first author published in the BMJ. Trauma care and research is very close to my heart, and I was super delighted to see my writing published. This piece of work started off as my MSc dissertation project. Road injuries constitute a considerable social and economic burden in Africa. There is still so much to be done to reduce the morbidity, mortality, and financial implications. I have seen how some of these accidents affect people's lives, so I put my whole heart into writing this paper. I am excited to have been able to contribute to the body of existing knowledge on the economic burden of road traffic injuries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Do you know what's even more amazing? I have been invited to present this paper at a seminar organised by the Harvard Programme in Global Surgery and Social Change sometime next year. So stay tuned for that😊. If you're looking for a lunchtime read, here's a link to the publication!
I got my first podcast feature.
Podcasts have sort of become my new favourite pastime, and that's just cause it can be easily incorporated into my day. You can literally be doing anything while listening to a podcast. And I find that you can get podcasts on pretty much any topic. So imagine how excited I was to be featured on a Global Surgery Podcast: Off The Table. In my episode with Amuna and Emilie, we discussed the complex journey of becoming a healthcare professional in Sierra Leone and some of the challenges (and possible solutions), particularly in providing emergency surgical care. We also talked a bit about my experience working in the NGO sector, my academic journey and passion for Global Health and Global Surgery, and finally, the intersection between gender equality and medicine. Here's a link to the podcast. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I did recording it!
Suture the future; Global Surgery Connects
So, this is 'the highlight' of the highlights! I was invited to talk at a Global Surgery Conference organised by the German Society for Global and Tropical Surgery in Bonn, Germany. Can you guess what the topic was? I had the incredible opportunity to talk about my blog! Yes, this blog! Scrubs, Scalpels and High Heels to the world! Isn't that amazing? This was possible because all of you read and shared my stories. I had a chance to use these stories to narrate my journey in Global Surgery and talk about how we can suture the future of Surgery. Every time I go to a Global Surgery conference, I get to see and am reminded of all the strides individuals and organisations worldwide are making to ensure that Surgery is accessible and affordable to billions of people around the globe. I am always so inspired by all these initiatives, and I know in my heart that one day we will change the world!
I met one of my mentors in Global Surgery, Professor Salome Maswime, Head of Global Surgery, at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. It was such an honour to meet her in person and stand on the same podium with her.
Prof Bernd Domres, a decorated trauma and disaster surgeon, led a skills session on 'makeshift' external fixators to fix fractures. During one of his humanitarian aid missions, he improvised and made external fixators of wood and bicycle spikes. Pretty cool, right? I bet you could see my excitement! Ortho toys make me happy. LOL.
I was amazed at how doctors and nurses from Tanzania are conservatively managing gastroschisis using silo bags. For non-medics, gastroschisis is a condition wherein babies are born with a defect around the belly button and their bowel outside. Due to the lack of specialist paediatric surgeons, non-specialist doctors and nurses are being trained to use a silicone bag as part of the management for some of these cases. I'm all for solutions that work in our settings!
I grew up among choristers, so I know a tiny weeny bit about choral music. Ludwig Van Beethoven is a famous composer, pianist and Bonn is his hometown. So, of course, I had to see some of the tributes in his name. And I got to play the piano after so many years- with the only song I kinda remembered- once in royal David's city. Christmas came early!
You know what they say about all work and no play. Outside was all shades of autumn, and we couldn't help ourselves!
Ice and Dreams
Well, sometimes, just sometimes, wishes come true. I got to go up to Mount Nordkette with one of my favourite people in the world! If you're not new to my blog, you'd probably remember that I mentioned my mentor in Surgery a few times. During my few days stay in Germany, I got the opportunity to see him and his family again. It was an incredibly amazing reunion. We couldn't stop sharing stories and laughing. And in our few hours together, we caught a ride up to the mountain top. I was freezing, but my inner child was happy. We even got to do our signature dab on ice. The snow on trees along the wayside reminded me of Christmas movies and how the little girl in me has always wanted to experience that. Christmas really came early! It was wonderful. I came back to my crazy life with a lot of love in my heart and motivation to last me a good while.
Guess who got to give a lecture at an international university?
Yup, you guessed right! Me! I was invited to give a lecture to masters and PhD students at the Medical University of Vienna, Austria. Decolonizing Global Health isn't always a comfortable topic. Still, we must have these conversations if we have to do Global Health 'right'. We had a good session on this complex topic and how its importance can not be overemphasised.
Well, this is all I can manage to write today. Let me get back to this life of a 'student-resident'.
Until the next blog post, stay safe and stay well!