Turning back was not an option.
It did not matter that my head was aching something fierce and I was almost hyper-ventilating. I took slow, shallow breaths in a poor attempt to calm myself. I looked up at the ceiling as though expecting to see the invisible force had kept me glued to the door for nearly five minutes. I was being pathetic.
“I can do this,” I murmured to my denim clad legs. Just one step at a
time, I’ve come this far haven’t I?
As a medical student going through clinical rotations, I was no stranger to hospital locker rooms. For the previous two years, I had practically lived in them. I could strip naked and change into scrubs in record time —with or without an audience. The best part was I had no classes to attend, only live and breathe case studies and worship my attending physicians. If you thought about it, they were at the top of the medical hierarchy.
My attending physician at Ikoyi Private Hospital was Dr. Charles Ike, I had only spoken to him on the phone but he scared the crap out of me. He had instructed me to start my Cardiology rotation today. If only I could make my legs move, being late on the first day would not look good. Despite knowing that, I remained at the door paralyzed by nerves. How did I even get here?
One month ago
“Fega, so when will you actually start making money?” Dr. Ejiro wanted to know.
“Daddy, I just need to finish my electives then-” I’d started to say.
“These ‘electives’ are going to have to be paid for abi? Have I not
paid for enough? For the past five years, your mother and I have been
paying through our noses-”
“I’m very grateful daddy but I’m almost there-”
“I have a lot of financial responsibilities right now, is there
anything you can do to cut costs? Electives are different from core
“Yes and after I’m done I can apply for a residency program—that’s when I’ll start earning a salary. For now, changing my location would reduce my accommodation and feeding costs,” I said.
“How would that work?”
“I can come back to Nigeria and do my elective rotations in
a hospital there. Do you think you can call some of your friends in
Lagos? See if they can find me a spot?”
“Why in Lagos? In fact, if you had stayed in Nigeria like I’d told you
in the first place-”
“Fine, I’ll make some phone calls and see what I can do. What is the
cost of a flight ticket back to Nigeria?”
Before I had answered him, I had sent a quick prayer to the Almighty
for strength. I had needed strength then as I did now. I hadn’t wanted
to come back to Nigeria but had done so out of necessity, to ‘cut
costs.’ So here I was, back to the motherland.
I tried not be bitter about it, my parents had sacrificed a lot for me to attend a medical school abroad. I knew that better than anyone. I just wished sometimes they wouldn’t go on about it as though the rest of the family had been forced to soak garri and groundnut every day because I was that much of a financial burden. I hardly enjoyed it!
Five years hadn’t changed anything, I was out of my element; I always had been. Then again, I had done a number of things I never thought I’d do. Moreover, I had become more confident in my academic abilities, and even in my looks. So I guess I was wrong, I had changed.
All things considered, what was the worst that could happen?
My feet started to move of their own accord. In less than five
short seconds I had presented myself for scrutiny by my fellow medical students. Aside from nationality, being a medical student was all I had in common with these people. I didn’t know them and they didn’t know me.
A few of them stopped chatting and turned to look at me. Once again, I stood rooted to the ground but gazed pointedly away from their curious faces.
The only unoccupied lockers I could see where towards the end
of the small but well lit room. Between the half naked bodies and two long wooden benches, I was left with little space to maneuver my way through.
“The nurses station is on the second floor,” someone said, glancing in my direction.
I did a double take, my head twisting sharply in the direction the voice had come from. Did I look like I needed a nurse or was that supposed to have been an insult? The girl who had said it hadn’t even waited for my response.
Standing before my so-called colleagues, I suddenly felt like an impostor. I opened my mouth to speak, to defend myself but no words came out. At this point, everyone else was staring at me, waiting for my reaction.
That moment, when you want the ground to open up and swallow you whole.
…to be continued