Shawshank Redemption


I was lying there, more accurately crashing there on a bed and my colleague,  she was one-year ahead of me in training, was sitting on the other bed. It was a double bedroom with ensuite toilet and shower a small fridge a kettle and few lockers, which I took pride in securing it just for female surgical residents.

Three years earlier I remember when our batch was assigned to surgical departments. One of my colleagues, who was so calculating and always acted wisely, warned me and he told me ” you’d better set your eyes on a department or they will just dump anywhere or worse send you to paediatric surgery in Abou El Rish.”

Me: ” paediatric surgery! Is there is even a surgical speciality for children” ” are they not operated on by general surgeons.”

him:” Hmmm so what are you up to then?”

Me:” I am interested in plastic surgery” plastic surgery was the hype at that time, was so fashionable and I was into this it, loved repairing nerves and the idea behind grafting and above all the aesthetic part of it.

Him: ” I can see you haven’t made any connections, they will dump you there in abou El Rish in paediatric surgery”

Me:” so why do you think paediatric surgery is so scary?”

Him:” there is a lot of work.”

Me:” well that’s a good thing, that means excellent training.”

Him:” Hell no, that’s so much work, residents die there of exhaustion.”

Me: ” really! That sounds scary.”

Him: ” there were a couple of registrars there, they were found dead in their beds.”

Me: ” they could have had an underlying medical problem.”

He smiles and shakes his head.

In a different scene in the lion’s lair, in the headquarters of the general surgery departments, the Chiefs   of departments meeting up, one of them was the chief of paediatric surgery department, I stepped in foolishly.

” here is the girl, would you like to take her.”

the chief of paediatric surgery department looked me up ” yes we can take her, why not?”

Me: ”Thank you for your interest but I haven’t made up my mind yet. I am interested in plastic surgery.”  Basically, one can not make up his/her mind with such a low rank. I was the 11th in this surgical batch and one of my colleagues ranked 12th we were last in the batch, a position that doesn’t leave you with so many options.

He:” no you will come along with me, you will fit well in our department, you look like a child yourself.” The office was full of commotion some professors burst into laughter at his comment. I remember one of them was nodding his head in agreement and telling me that I should listen to him, this is a good choice besides there is plastics in Abou El Rish as well, they do cleft lip and palate and bits and other pieces in plastics. He interestingly also added that it is a good place to gain the surgical skills and later I can do whatever I want to do since surgeons gain skills so quickly skills in this particular location.

The paediatric surgery department was extremely short staffed of junior residents. Because the department did not accept new residents for some time. It was also a decision to send my colleague who ranked the 12th with me to this department. He was happily nesting in one of the plastic surgery departments until they snatched him out of there. He was upset at the beginning but he adapted quickly to the place.

One of the difficulties that I encountered was that the place was not set up for female surgical residents, as residents we were supposed to live in the hospital in the first six months and there was no separate on call room for us. We were two female registrars at that time; my other colleague was part time because she was affiliated with another university and had to spend a couple of days in her hometown but she did same on-call hours as I did.

With no separate on call room and female doctors from other specialities and SHOs sharing our on-call room gossiping and chatting we were suffering sleep deprivation. The work was continuous and sleep was minimal. The male residents did have their on-call room, it was no bias, but they were there first, but I envied them.

I did manage to get us a separate room. By paying money and changing the locks, there was some resistance initially but later on, the hospital management accepted that female surgical registrars should have separate rooms especially when more females joined us.

My colleague was right, abou El Rish is a MEAN MACHINE the workload is merciless is bigger than any team can handle. To work and run this place one has to be a superhero. It has a significant catchment I would say a population not less than 15 million.  The head of my department the one who dragged me into this place said that the flow is so high in abou El Rish that a resident with IQ below average or limited skill can get trained very well.

My colleague might have been right, yet I can not imagine my life if I didn’t train there. This place has defined my life and gave meaning to it. It gave me the opportunity to train in one of the finest professions that  I wouldn’t ever dream off and come across people of all kinds I would not imagine existed. This place has enriched my life with experience something much more valuable than material or money.

I was lying there on the bed and my colleague on the other bed next to me, it was, as I said, a double bedroom. She said:” when I think of myself, I see myself as this hero in this movie that I  love so much. He was a  prisoner and dug a tunnel for fifteen years. He was extremely patient. He kept digging the tunnel until he escaped in a brilliant way. I see myself like this man digging my way out of prison.”

Me:” you mean the movie Shawshank redemption!! Seriously this is one my favourite and I do identify myself with this hero as well.”

however, I asked myself from what prison do we want to escape?





Childhood prophesies

I sometimes think that before we are born, we are programmed with what we want to be.

Years ago I met an old lady and old ladies in their mid-seventies are usually chatty and remember things that happened ages ago very clearly. She told me when she was six/seven years old she used to play with a school friend, like many children they loved role playing. She preferred standing by the blackboard and hush the other kids and tell them” I am your teacher.” Her friend, on the other hand, used to parade inside the classroom and say ‘ I am the Queen of Egypt.’  The first child, the lady I met, grew up to be a teacher. The other child, the wannabe queen of Egypt, grew up to marry a lieutenant in the Egyptian army who later became the successor of President Naser. His name was Anwar El Sadat, therefore becoming the first lady of Egypt for a good number of years, for about ten years until Sadat was assassinated in 1980.

After hearing this story, I tried to remember what did I want to be when I was a kid. When I was a child I had no passion for school, I was a daydreamer and always wondered why the teachers wanted to grab our attentions so badly. I hardly had any passion for any subject especially the math class.  At some point there were timetables that we had to memorize and who didn’t got punished by standing up facing the wall, the easiest table to remember was the one anything multiplied by one equaled one.

By the time I reached the fourth grade, I had started to enjoy biology the experiments, and I was particularly fond of drawing the human heart, not the cartoon version but the real anatomy with aorta pulmonary artery and atria and ventricles. A delatialed antomy illustration was  in our biology book. But one day on a holiday when I was alone at the boarding school, I sat down cutting and pasting few paragraphs and building a story in an old copy book, something clicked inside me. I liked what I was doing.

Few weeks later I grabbed the copy book and sat down and started a discussion with my boarding school mates. Two of them were sisters, we were sort of eight years by then,  I addressed the sisters and told them I am an author and want to write their biography. Their stories were interesting; they were three sisters, the third sister was five or seven years older and staying in a different section at school.  The school grouped children based on their age. One of The two sisters was my grade, but she did sound a bit older, because she was so clever and serious, she once criticized me like an adult for wanting to play, the other girl probably one year younger than us and was in different class. The intelligent girl and the older sister were brought up together, the other girl who was grade younger was introduced into the family when she was five or six years old. They said that their parents kept her with the grandparents when they worked in Saudi Arabia for some reason. So three children including a boy who was in another boarding school, the Victoria boarding school for males were living together, and this girl was sent off to live with the grandparents. She looked different, though, she had lighter hair and skin, thinner and taller she probably might have looked after her mother.

Me the eight-year-old author wanted to write a biography about their lives. I started asking questions, they were cooperative started answering my question, but some how I don’t know how the discussion became so heated, and they began fighting together and begun attacking each other like the guests in Jeremy Kyle show. I was so surprised by the impact of my interview and questions on those invincible sisters. I was a lonely child they were a pack in this boarding school. I had no intention to turn them against each other; it just happened I was asking the right questions. The intelligent girl always tricked me but for the first time I ever tricked her, it was the first time it dawned on me that I possess some intelligence to trick people. They were fighting hard that the nanny had to interfere and had to report this to the supervisor.

This interview was not the last one; this was not the last heated discussion. But when I started asking questions aimed at one person, I was the one under attack. It seems that I had a talent for asking questions that piss people off. Therefore, I stopped. I do not need this Jeremy Kyle kind of talent in my life.

But I still think of writing all night before going to sleep. I think of all those heated discussions. I am a surgeon now. Writing is like surgery one has to train and practice to perfect their technique. Writing just like surgery you should be cut out to be a surgeon, but not everyone cut out to be a surgeon becomes a good surgeon, there is a lot of hard work and training and above all dedication to be a good one.