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?