Bits of ME
What inspires greatness in life may be as little as your daughter saying, “Mummy I want to be a neurosurgeon or an orthopaedic surgeon.”
The unfailing faith in my pursuits automatically projected a reality beyond my daughter’s dream and envisioned her adult life as the most sought-after surgeon in the world.
To enliven her dream, I told her about the unforgettable story of a young boy who dared to rewrite his future from a pessimistic wounded childhood to a revered orthopaedic surgeon and founded Uganda’s first orthopaedic hospital.
This is the narrative of Ekure, the bone whisperer!
It is in the mind, that which impoverishes your will to live unto what you are destined to accomplish.
John Ekure’s childhood was accustomed to having less of what the world’s resources availed within Teso sub region. He was one of 20 children of his father Shadrack Odeke and mother, Elizabeth Opola.
Regardless of his exceptional classroom performance, his upbringing smelled of poverty.
In his autobiography, UNDETERRED, Ekure wrote: “I arrived in class wearing a shirt akin to rugs…under the tutelage of Mr. Ogweng. He looked at me and asked a question that crashed me, sincerely John, don’t you have another shirt? I certainly did not have the luxury of a change of clothes. But how could I tell that to the teacher?”
This is a boy whose juvenile years were daunted by the NRA civil war turbulence, Lakwena rebels and cattle rustling in 1970s- 1980s.
He had come to near death and seen the pangs of war either unfolding in his father’s backyard, or in the school yard, so often racing through dark days in fear for his life.
“The shooting was wild and invasive; bullets shredded the shrubs and the leaves scattered all over our backs. I thought I had come to the end of my life…we remained planted flat in the shrubs brushing off shredded leaves and listening to our bewildered breath,” he wrote.
The war robbed him the woman who believed in his education and to whom Ekure owes his inspirations to becoming extraordinary- his mother!
In his book he writes, “I read about my mother’s death in the newspaper days after she had passed on and been buried. My heart dropped…As I flipped through, I saw this headline that caught my attention-Nine killed in a grenade attack in Kumi…”
In recollection of moments that nearly shattered his life, Ekure gripped onto his mother’s last words, “My son please read, that is your future.”
Bits of YOU
Inspirations that build our resilience to pursue that which turns us into icons of success may differ but the end goal of victory binds us together.
For Dr. John Ekure in education, he placed his courage.
Samaritans like his mother’s friend sister Gladys Okiria took on his guardianship, Dr. Frank Guinness helped with his education amidst government scholarships beckoned by his hard work.
Irrespective of his shortcomings, Ekure soared on undeterred but if he hadn’t, Uganda would not pride in the man who by 2018, was the only orthopaedic surgeon east of the Nile to Juba and South Sudan carrying out about 1000 operations annually.
During my People and Power interview on NBS TV, Dr. John Ekure said: “My mother was born with a deformity in her hip so I was intrigued as to why she walked differently from other people and I wanted to learn how such could be corrected.”
Nonetheless, Ekure says, there are lot of traumas in Uganda from accidents like car or boda bodas, broken bones, deformities, an ageing population with people having issues with their backs, joints especially knee, hips and shoulder joints among others.
He explains, orthopaedics is a wide branch of medicine that deals with the muscular skeletal system with many facets like paediatric musculoskeletal system, spine surgery, trauma surgery, arthroplasty and orthopaedic oncology among others.
While as Ekure’s forte is Arthroplasty- reconstruction or replacement of joints, he says he cannot just do arthroplasty…
“I had to make sure I study all these fields of orthopaedic surgery and I still train to do these things the right way,” he said.
With a population of over 40 million people in Uganda, there are barely 100 orthopaedic surgeons.
Dr Ekure warns that if you get an accident and you don’t land in the hands of an orthopaedic surgeon or you don’t land in the hands of people with knowledge on how to handle it, you’re most likely to lose your limb.
To those with courage to join the field, Ekure advises, “You need to develop interest in seeing what disabilities do to people. If you’ve a passion in turning disabilities into ability, seeing those that had been maimed walk again and get people back to their jobs, then you know orthopaedics is the way to go.”
The story of the bone whisperer continues, he whose dream was just to become a doctor stretched into him rising as an entrepreneur and philanthropist.
He set up a foundation for a multi-billion Kumi Orthopaedic hospital in his homeland with savings of only Shs 10 million, another narrative embedded in his autobiography, UNDETERRED but for you and I daring to dream, never say never.