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City of Banjul
Saturday, May 8, 2021

A journey of forever

UTG Medical Students’ Association

By Fatoumatta Sarjo

It was indeed a beautiful day, as I embraced gaining admission into Medicine. Many do say that the Medical School is the highest citadel of learning so yes, I settled for “I have already made it in life” until reality dawned upon me; alas, the “never ending” journey was in fact yet to begin!

I started Pre-Med with the zeal of a young child who has just discovered the beauty of walking. I mean as far as I was concerned, Pre-Med was made up of subjects I had at least done in high school so I wasn’t expecting it to send me to my ancestors just like that! However, that was the first dose of suffering leaving me at the mercy of chemistry and calculus. Both courses did actually lend their ears to my silent plea as they allowed me cross over to the other side. Glad and grateful was I over the fact that I had successfully gone through level zero of a life-long career. If you’re still here with me, then let’s figure out why Pre-Med is more or less level zero. 

“Welcome to the Medical School; as a medical student, you have to study everyday” said my Histology lecturer. “No more Senegambia or party for you; you need to study hard” said my Embryology lecturer. “Don’t complain about too much reading for you’ve chosen this path for yourself; and if medicine were easy, everyone would have studied it. Anatomy is the mother of medicine so you must be keen in knowing about the human body from head to toe. Do not just become a doctor; rather, become The Doctor” were the words of my Anatomy lecturer. At this point, I mentally congratulated myself for taking a path through “hell” and my jaws concurred as they suddenly dropped. Upon hearing all of that, it dawned on me that Pre-Med was a sieving method in disguise. Permit me to say it was more of a survival of the fittest in a quest to make it to the real war zone. On the very first day of Bio-medicals, I was very much expecting to be oriented and then allowed to go home and prepare for classes the next day. Luckily, that actually happened but in my dreams instead of reality as I was given a grand welcome of three solid lectures with a hint that seminars were to begin the following week. Again, this particular “seminar” is special as it involves a lecturer smiling at a confused student trying to figure out if a set of questions are either true or false, and trying so hard to not guess for fear of negative marking. I would have actually loved to share what I learnt on my first day but unfortunately, I was busy sleeping and waking up alternatively trying to understand the language being spoken because if that were English, then my chain of English teachers must sort themselves out before my village people for misleading me.

The three semesters of Bio-medicals went by fast enough with mixed emotions and circumstances. Sometimes, I was in cloud nine for acing my seminars and examinations but other times, I was simply left with the sole choice of either appreciating that “gentleman pass” or crying over that devastating low mark behind the scenes; after all, life still went on and the worst is perhaps yet to come. Speaking of examinations, Part One Professional Examination marks the end of Bio-medicals and proceeding to the next stage entirely depended on one passing this punishment of an exam. I constantly tried reminding myself that so many other examinations were a total success so this too shall come to pass but honestly, “Tanka Tanka” almost had me as part of their patients. I mean, everyone gives their own subjective experience but the undeniable fact remains that Professional Examinations come with a well packaged level of stress and frustration. If anything made my experience better, it was inspiration and guidance from peers and those in upper levels. I couldn’t have done it alone, for it wasn’t a one man show.  As a matter of fact, I watched some of my seniors from the 16th Cohort turn their classroom into a multi-purpose center. I’d giggle in my corner as they studied, ate and even took turns to take a nap disguised as sleep in the same class. The famous “Ataaya” was equally part of the equation as it served the purpose of keeping them awake and active through the long nights. All of that sent a strong message that perseverance is the way out in Medical School. The intense studies and sleepless nights that leave one looking like a zombie aren’t a waste; they are worth the price of success. As for the feeling of successfully making it through Professional Examination, let me sip my juice and allow you discover that inexplicable feeling on your own someday.

At the very end of the Bio-medical tunnel was the mansion of clinical practice, requiring me to be immersed in a hospital setting in an effort to observe first-hand what has been well articulated in books. Just like any other novice, I was eager to discover what lay ahead even though I wasn’t so sure of what to expect. “You will take turns to join me in the dressing room as I take care of CS patients”, said a nurse at the Post Natal ward. I patiently waited for my turn but as soon as I found myself in that room, I got thirsty, nauseous, and was already planning my journey of adopting kids. I had to excuse myself and as if that experience wasn’t enough, I encountered four deaths within the span of a few hours during my second week of rotations in the Accident and Emergency ward. I am still wondering why my tears failed me or maybe they were too scared to spill. The thought of me being that lifeless someday was just overwhelming. A lot happened during my third week and I was gradually getting used to certain things. However, watching a 13 year-old-girl cry her heart out for being pregnant in grade eight and suffering from breast abscess is a scenario that completely stood out. Teenage pregnancy never felt so heartbreaking but all I could do was administer her drugs and send a smile of assurance to her as the doctors involved impressed me with their level of professionalism. My last week at the ICU was a real marathon. So many different cases, so many different needs, so much dependency all tied and hanging on the shoulders of the available health care providers. But most importantly, I effortlessly got to understand the truest meaning of “health is wealth”. My little experience of clinical rotations spared no effort in hinting me that medicine is a journey of tears and smiles, and one of satisfactions and disappointments. Nonetheless, a good sense of direction is an invaluable tool always.

A plea to Laboratory Medicine (Lab-Med)

Dear Lam-Med, I have heard a lot about you and you happen to be my next stop. I have been asked to get married before you get me wrinkled, and to reserve a lot of tissue rolls for you shall exhaust my tear glands. I have been told to betray Mr. Sleep and to build a relationship with Mr. Insomnia; all of this just to be able to make it through you alive. But Dear Lab-Med, all I seek is your hand of mercy for I come in peace. Do not unleash your demons on me for I am too fragile to handle them all. I come with no intention for war so I humbly request that you hold your peace and let tranquility reign. Till we meet in the very near future, please consider my sincere plea.

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