In the sweating discomfort of the Somalia heatwave, as I walked from my house, a taxi pulled in front of our door. My mum stormed from the front passenger seat of the taxi towards its rear passenger seat to her youngest sister who was fighting for her life. She was ill for a very long time. She had suffered an extreme loss of weight, had a persistent cough that brings up bloody phlegm, was breathless, sweating and very much in pain. Just a year prior to this event, my grandmother lost her life with the same illness as my aunt was suffering now. They were both diagnosed with tuberculosis.
My first visit to the hospital was frightening, as there were thousands of people who were also suffering from this deadly disease (TB). My next visit was even worse, where five of those patients died from tuberculosis. At that time I was just a little girl, wondering if there will ever be any cure for this disease as the public awareness of the disease and its medical treatment wasseverely limited in my birth country. So, when anopportunity to pursue further education in medical research showed up, TB and understanding how our immune system works and fighters against disease, had to be one of my first choices of specialism.
What shaped me to choose to study for another Master Degree (MSc), one in medical diagnostics at a prestigious institute (since I already had an MSc in Infectious Diseases and Immunology) and also a degree in Medical Pathology, was my visit to my birthplace – Mogadishu, Somalia, back in 2013. As my mum was struggling to find what was wrong with her son, I said that it could be an abscess. Not having the right training/equipment to diagnose him, I wasn’t comfortable to say anything further. After taking him to many private hospitals, two hospitals said it was tuberculosis. They prescribed some drugs and he continued to suffer. She then took him to a hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontières that said it was a cancer and that they needed to amputate his leg. They amputated his leg and eventually, we managed to send him to Uganda, where after analysing a lot of samples they said it was neither tuberculosis nor cancer. Despite this effort, my brother lost his life in December 2013 in Uganda.
According to author Jennifer Holloway, ‘Tragedy is a substance which can ignite the soul’. The death and the agonies of my brother, among many other events compelled me to pursue a dedicated career in medical diagnostics in the hope of helping to save lives. As we all know “Health is the cornerstone of our being” and the first thing after feeding is health
Despite this tragedy there is an inevitable mission, which has drawn me in, like a magnet and which has become an integral part of a new chapter in my life. On the day my brother lost his life I found my soul and I am more than ever determined to go back to Somalia and save lives.
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