In 1993 a year after working in the Emergency department at Mulago Hospital I joined my partner in London. It was a big culture shock to say the least. Everything was different from what I had expected.
I arrived in mid October so it was much colder and darker compared to the tropical Uganda weather. The food tasted different and I had difficulty understanding the various English accents. The worst thing was the isolation and the fact that I could not work as a doctor. I even got admitted to hospital one time for a week because I became ill. All tests and observations were normal and the doctors never figured out what was wrong with me. How could this be ? I had been to the best schools and University in Uganda, I thought I spoke quite good English but now I couldn't understand spoken English and I required a conversion course to be able to practise medicine!
Years of political and economical turmoil in Uganda had damaged the medical schools reputation abroad. Any degrees awarded after 1976 during the Idi Amin era were not recognized by the GMC(General Medical Council) the UK medical standards regulatory body.
I got married the same year and we had our first son at the end of 1994.
After our second son was born in 1996 I turned my attention back to my medical career.I communicated backwards and forth with various bodies,GMC,BMA (The British Medical Association),the local council,my MP and anyone else who could give me any information on how I could get my medical re-qualification. During my research I got in touch with a group of doctors from other parts of Africa in a similar situation to mine. We met initially just to talk; then we started educational discussions.
Unfortunately around this time I received the devastating news of my sister Mary's death.Mary had suffered a sickle cell crisis but as she was recovering her blood haemoglobin level dropped to a dangerous level. She was seen by a clinician who confirmed her blood levels were very low ( HB 4g/dl) but took no action opting instead to admit her the next day. Mary died that same night.
After recovering from the shock of this news my mind returned to my Ugandan dream. Perhaps I should have been in Uganda. I chose to carry on.
What I wanted was a course providing clinical training with hospital attachments not just exams.
One day after sending out several several CVs to medical schools round the country I received a call from the secretary of one such course at St Georges Hospital Medical school in London. She said my children had given her my mobile number when she called the house! I met Professor Fiennes the head of the course a few days later. He said he had one place left on the course and asked if I'd like to come to the interviews in two weeks time. Of course I said yes.
I got admitted to the course . My admission letter came through as I was in hospital on the day I had my 3rd son through a c-section. The course was to start in four weeks time and was scheduled to run for just under 12 months.
I had to cut short one month of my General Practice placement which was all the way in Epsom Surrey because I developed persistent hip pain. Clearly I needed recovery time after having the baby. The course was flexible and I continued my clinical placements at the hospital close to my home.
Juggling the course and family was very stressful but I was determined to get back to my career and nothing was going to stop me. My husband was also very helpful with the children.
Two weeks before the final exam the course secretary encouraged me to apply for a junior doctors post at one of the local hospitals. I was very reluctant because I felt exhausted by the course and I would have preferred to take a break after the exams. This lovely lady secretary even offered to tidy up my CV. I did the interview and got offered the job. Three weeks later I received the great news that I had passed my exams. The feeling was great, I celebrated quietly with my husband and children, and looked forward to starting my first job in The UK.
I felt whole again, and I started to enjoy England.