I never expected that my "unexpected conversation" would be on this forum, sharing thoughts with people I do not know.
When I decided to take up medicine, it was not only my desire to follow in my parents' footsteps but it was their wish too. As I stood at the crossroads between college and university, I questioned whether I wanted to be a doctor, a physicist or a mathematician. Medicine was the final choice and I categorically announced: I shall be doing something different. I am not going to be a gynaecologist as people expected lady doctors to become.
Five years fly past and I graduate. When the day comes to decide which two fields to do my preregistration training in, I choose medicine and surgery.
“Medicine and gynaecology”, says my father and I reply: “medicine and surgery”. My father sees that I am not going to listen, and from that day onwards he has always supported my decision.
When my maternity rotation ended as a final year student, I thought that I would never have to encounter an obstetrical or gynaecological case again. It is true that as a doctor I have not done so, but twenty-five years after graduation I needed to visit a labour room to inquire about an acquaintance.
Climbing up the three flights of steps, almost bumping into fifty people on my way, I wonder whether anything might have changed from when I was a student. I reached swinging doors, the same words written above the doors: Labour Room. The same crowd, even larger outside the doors; some sitting on chairs, others on the floor, still more arguing with the much-needed security staff posted at the doors.
I manage to enter the ward and there's the same counter on the right. A dozen junior doctors besides nurses. Some clerking patients, some filling in the big fat registers used for record keeping, others hurrying around monitoring patients.
The labour room is full of patients in various stages of labour, either walking around with an infusion which they are themselves holding above their heads, or lying in a bed shared with another patient.
The room swirls around me with moans and groans in the background, and the stench of fluid and blood filling the air...bang...the doors swing open and a pale woman is wheeled in: a ruptured ectopic.
The doctors and nurses leave their other work, someone starts issuing orders and others follow, resuscitating the patient and after a few minutes she is on her way to the operation theatre.
Another bang and the doors open again, another patient – this time with a muddy shoe hanging by the trolley. As I look closely, I notice that the shoe is tied to the umbilical cord. The reason? A placenta that the village elder has failed to deliver, the shoe had been an attempt to prevent the umbilical cord returning into the womb. Another bang, another patient, and then another. I can’t keep count.
My thoughts go back to when I was a student. I chose not to become a gynaecologist because I wanted to do something different. I wanted to prove that women can venture into other fields as well. I did not want my options restricted just because of my gender. It was rebellion. It was women's rights.
My ten-minute return to the ward has changed my perception. Back then, I had not accepted gynaecology, now I realise gynaecology would not have accepted me. Only the toughest of the tough can venture into gynaecology in this part of the world. Dealing with all sorts of unimaginable complications and problems is no easy task. I would have lost at the starting line.
My hat goes off to these courageous lady doctors, who work day in and day out against all odds. They are true heroes.
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