Saturday, January 23, 2016

Future Neurosurgeon

Yesterday I met an inspiring 10 year old girl named Grace (name changed for confidentiality). She was sitting alone in the waiting area of AMPATH pediatric HIV clinic. She was very focused reading a small paperback book she held in her hands as she waited to see the doctor. I sat down next to her. "What are you reading?" I asked her.

She began to explain the story to me excitedly. Her English was perfect and the book she was reading was far beyond her level. I complimented her English and she sat up straighter smiling proudly. I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew-up.

"Neurosurgeon!" she proclaimed confidently. When I asked her why she told me how she wanted to help children without money. She wanted to provide care for free so that children who are sick can grow up healthy.

Despite attending an underfunded public school she was getting excellent marks in school and national exams. She hopes that next year she will be chosen to receive a scholarship to attend an all girls boarding school.

We began to read the story book together, alternating who was reading out-loud. She read eagerly until her mother called her into the doctors office. I saved the book as she saw the doctor. When she came back out we began to read again.

The book was about an impoverished boy who helped his mother with the garden and his younger sister. His only clean pair of clothes was his school uniform. He loved to read books and go to school.

One Saturday his mother left for the day and he was put in charge of his little sister. His sister woke up with a fever and proceeded to have a seizure. Scared the brother fashioned a basket onto the back of a bicycle and rode 15km to the clinic.

At the clinic he met a female doctor. He had never seen a woman doctor before so he admired her greatly. The friendly female doctor praised his love for his sister and the courage he showed by bringing her to the clinic. The doctor treated his sister and encouraged the young boy to keep working hard and dreaming big. He was so swept away by the doctor's encouragement that he rode home proud and smiling. His sister was feeling much better when they arrived home.

Grace's mother came out of the doctors office and sat down next to us. She watch us as we took turns reading the book. Finally the girl had to leave. Her mother shook my hand and thanked me in Kiswahili.

I said bye to Grace and I told her to keep dreaming and working hard so that she can one day be a neurosurgeon. I smiled as she walked out of the clinic. I wonder if she knows she has HIV, many caregivers do not tell their children out of fear. With medications children with HIV can live long and successful lives. I hope one day I will see her pass me in the halls of the hospital with her white coat flutter behind her on the way to the operating room to save a child's life.

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