​WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE? 

After my NYSC, I joined the pool of frustrated young Nigerian graduates, actively searching for a job. So one day, I attended a walk-in job interview in Lagos. I had rehearsed the answers to common interview questions and mastered a number of clinical questions that are frequently asked during such interviews. Then, I met a consultant who asked me unusual questions. 
“How old are you?”

Although my date of birth was written clearly on my CV which was right in front of him, I think he just wanted to be sure… 

His next question struck me even harder… 

“So, what do you want to do with your life?”. 
I went silent for about 40 seconds. The question was obviously open-ended and vague, I didn’t know how to start answering. At that moment, I thought about the meaning of life itself. I thought about the purpose of creation. I thought about the things I wanted to do in life and those things I’ll like to be remembered for when I’m gone. I envisioned my life in the next 10 to 20 years. Then, I remembered that I don’t even own my life and, as much as I plan for a great future, nothing is 100% sure; except death.
Within those 40 seconds, a verse of the Qur’an popped into my head:

“And I (Allah) created not the jinns and humans except that they should worship Me” (Qur’an chapter 51 verse 56). 
My dear interviewer, seeing how perplexed I was, went on to explain what he meant… 

“You’re still young and energetic. I doubt if this is the kind of job you should be looking for. It’s OK to gather one or two years of experience and save some money. But you should aim higher. You should take this and that course, undergo this and that training, read this and that book, access this and that resource, write this and that exam…”
I nodded affirmatively but I was still partially lost in thought. He had no idea that I read a different meaning to his question. Each time I remember that interview, that interviewer, and that question, I shake my head and smile. I ask myself: Khadijah, what are you doing with your life? 
“O you who believe! Fear Allah and keep your duty to Him. And let every person look to what he has sent forth for the morrow, and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what you do.” (Qur’an chapter 59 verse 18) 

​CHRONICLES OF UNI DAYS (Part 1)

My first experience of hostel life was in 100 level. I was placed in a four-man room in Queen Elizabeth II Hall, one of the two female-only halls of residence in the University of Ibadan. Out of the four legal occupants, I was the youngest and most naive. Bisi later became a floater in that same room, spending most of her free time with us. 
I had a very hard time adjusting to that kind of life. I was mummy’s pet. I couldn’t spend up to 2 weeks on campus before running back home, AlhamduliLlaah that home was only 2 bus stops away. I would hold “number 2” for several days because I was uncomfortable with the shared toilets; until I got home and released week-old loads of shit!
Back to the issue of Bisi. I think she had a PhD in troublemaking before coming back to study medicine. She can make trouble for Africa. There’s never any dull moment when she’s around. She taught me many tricks and survival tips for hostel and campus life. 
One morning, we were preparing for an 8 o’clock class and we were almost late. I didn’t mind going to class on an empty stomach but ‘Kọ̀ọ́mi’ (as we fondly call each other) never jokes with food. She can combine anything with anything, as long as it’s edible. We had some leftover ẹ̀bà and rice from the previous day. I thought she was kidding when she started warming the two together. That was how she made me eat ẹ̀bà and rice to class o! 
That morning was not funny at all. Sleeping in the hostel would have been more honourable for me than sleeping during class. All my blood was redirected from my brain to my stomach. I struggled to take some notes in between the naps, but there were so many gaps that I couldn’t make any sense of what I wrote. 
While I was snoozing away, Bisi was conscious and alert as usual. (Did I mention that she’s also an excellent stenographer?) The next thing I heard was, “Khadijah, wake up! Class is over”.

JUST TO CHARGE MY PHONE?

It can be quite annoying when “NEPA brings the light” during the late hours of the night and then, you have to wake up and plug in your phones and other rechargeable gadgets. But something struck me one day. Power was restored around 3:15am and the sound and coolness of my fan woke me up. I jumped up and plugged in my phone because the battery was almost dead, then I headed back to bed.

Suddenly, I started feeling guilty… I said to myself: why can’t you just observe qiyam (tahajjud) now before going back to sleep? Why not do ablution and supplicate to Allaah now? I had set up my alarm clock to 4:30am, but how many times have we failed to wake up despite the alarm? Who alarm don epp?! Khadijah, don’t be lazy, seriously, you can wake up to charge your phone, but you can’t spare 10 minutes to charge your soul?

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allaah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “Our Lord, the Blessed, the Superior, comes every night down on the nearest Heaven to us when the last third of the night remains, saying: “Is there anyone to invoke Me, so that I may respond to his invocation? Is there anyone to ask Me, so that I may grant him his request? Is there anyone seeking My forgiveness, so that I may forgive him?” (Saheeh Bukhari, 1145)

RAMADAN WEEK 4

It’s here again: the Ramadan guilt.
Eid is only ~5 days away,
but I don’t know what I have achieved.
I don’t know if I have become a better Muslim.
I don’t know if Allaah has forgiven my past sins
I don’t know if I have been cleansed…
I should have done better,
but I’ve been lazy.
But I hope…
I hope and pray to see Laylatul Qadr
and earn all the bounties therein.
I pray Allaah accepts my efforts:
the few acts of worship,
the prayers,
the fasting,
the sacrifices…
I pray He grants me the rewards, in manifolds.
I wish the same for my brethren;
I pray for a blessed Ramadan.
I pray for a blessed Eid.
Aameen.

WHEN THE PATIENT IS A DOCTOR…

I always like to make use of every opportunity to stress that, doctors ARE human beings, and we do fall ill, too. The worst part is that, our diagnosis is often complicated by an exaggerated psychological disturbance, maybe because we are “oversavvy”. For example, because I know that chest pain is a common symptom of hundreds of diseases, I would easily put myself through loads of laboratory and radiological tests just to rule out the potentially life-threatening causes. Who wants to die?!

Soon after I began my clinical training, I started feeling a strange discomfort in my chest. Kanu Nwankwo’s diagnosis of a valvular heart disease was still trending then… Dr. Okolo gave us a comprehensive lecture on cardiac pathology… Oh my God! It was as if he was talking about me. Next thing I noticed was that I was having a stabbing chest pain which radiated to my back. Then, I started having palpitations, loss of appetite and poor sleep.

I turned to my textbooks, pretending as if I was reading for exams. But I was just making sure I wasn’t going to die suddenly from heart attack, lol! When I couldn’t bear it anymore, I went to the staff clinic and met a medical officer who obviously hadn’t read as much as I had recently read then. After explaining my predicament to her, I went ahead and schooled her on what I thought the diagnosis and treatment should have been. Thank God the lady calmly reassured me that what I had was merely peptic ulcer. I still wasn’t convinced until I had an ECG which turned out to be normal, Alhamdulillaah!

Another subset of “oversavvy” patients are not actual doctors, but they have bagged PhDs from googling and “wiki-ing” every single detail before going to the clinic. Fine, it’s OK to know about the possible causes of your symptoms. In fact, it makes the consultation easier and more fun. However, it’s not appropriate to just go and tell the doctor what diagnosis you have arrived at and demand for specific prescriptions. Rather than saying, “I have malaria and I want quinine”, say: “I have fever and headache, I think it might be malaria because I’ve been exposed to mosquito bites lately”. And please, don’t carry all the articles you printed out from the internet just to argue with the doctor. That’s why it’s called a “consultation” room, not a courtroom!

AFTER THE BABY SHOWER, THERE’S THE BLUES…

Majority of pregnant women experience some episodes of infirmity at some point in the gestational period, but some of us rock the bump and appear well throughout: no (or very mild) morning sickness in the first trimester; going about our normal activities until the waddling gait became too obvious! I was even on duty, just a few hours before I was delivered!

Unfortunately, that superpower is not always guaranteed beyond the pregnancy. I lost it when the baby came. He won’t stop crying; 2am was his peak time. Nap time was his, not mine. That was the time to clear the room, finish my own meal, check my mails, wash the dishes and sort out the laundry. Just when those tasks were almost done, he would wake up, crying for the next feeding!

My hair was a mess. Sleep deprivation became my second name. Though, dad was quite helpful, family and friends did what they could; I kept forming the “pseudo-superwoman” trait, giving the (wrong) impression that I was coping just fine. But I was exhausted. I was breaking; literally dying inside. I knew I wasn’t the superwoman people thought I was. Ah! I don’t even want to mention the poor kid who had to witness those ugly sides of me; who absorbed all the transferred aggression and heard very mean comments everyday. Alhamdulillaah, we survived…

Dear woman, we know you are strong. You are resilient, but you have an elastic limit. You are awesome, but you are fallible. You have your weaknesses, which do not make you less of a  woman, mother and wife. You are just like any other human. You need help. No, you don’t need help, YOU DESERVE IT! So, don’t feel shy to ask for it and accept it. Your baby needs your sanity as much as she needs your care.

*PS.
Baby blues is a pretty common condition affecting mums in the first few days after childbirth. Characterised by fatigue, sadness, irritability and mood swings, it’s often self-limiting and most women overcome it through lifestyle modifications and family/social support. However, it’s imperative to seek expert medical attention if the symptoms persist after 2 weeks or in the presence of the red flags listed below, which could be pointers to a more serious disorder (Postpartum Psychosis or Postpartum Depression) :

*Hallucinations and paranoia
*Depressed mood or severe mood swings,
*Excessive crying
*Difficulty bonding with the baby
*Withdrawing from family and friends
*Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
*Inability to sleep or sleeping too much
*Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
*Reduced interest and pleasure in previously pleasurable activities
*Intense irritability and anger
*Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
*Inability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
*Severe anxiety and panic attacks
*Thoughts of self-harm or harming the baby
*Recurrent suicidal ideation

RAMADAN BACK HOME: WEEK 3

Alhamdulillaah for journey mercies. Boarding a flight of an airline that has recently recorded a crash is not easy at all. There I was, watching the safety demonstration video and reading the safety guideline pamphlet, over and over again! I couldn’t look out of the window. I was very drowsy, yet I could only sleep with one eye closed!

Again, I say: Alhamdulillaah! Which of the favours of my lord can I deny? I arrived home safely, and everyone at home was safe. Travelling is indeed a stressful endeavour, as the Prophet (saw) said:

“Travel is a portion of torment. It prevents one of you from eating, drinking, and sleeping, so when you have finished your purpose then quickly return to your families”. (Bukhari 1710, Muslim 1927)

This same travelling has made me miss out a lot in this Ramadan. It still doesn’t feel like a typical Ramadan to me. I pray Allaah gives me the opportunity to maximise the remaining days to gather plenty of rewards and blessings. Aameen.