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Dr Eddie Mairura: 'Sometimes I went for 30 hours without sleep'

Health & Science
 Dr Eddie Mairura.

When Dr Eddie Mairura was born in Kisii County, he had to live with his grandparents as his parents flew for training in the USA, a year later.

They later returned to Kenya, moved to Nairobi where he attended Riara School and Dagoretti High School, but come 2000 his family finally relocated to the USA.

Dr Mairura was only 14 and says the transition was quite challenging at first as “you look different, talk differently, dress differently, fitting in as a teenager was a bit hard and it took me some time.”

“Schooling was also challenging, finding my circle of friends and relationships,” but embracing the fact that he was an American emigrant with Kenyan roots is what helped him adapt to his new environment faster.

He remembers one incident in high school when one teacher asked him to read out a paragraph in class. Due to his accent, the other students did not understand what he was reading. Much of his initial efforts included changing his accent to the new environment.

The challenges only motivated to stand out and succeed in places where he felt he was naturally gifted and this motivation to succeed is what led Dr Mairura to medicine, specifically, to be an orthopedic surgeon.

His undergraduate education was at the University of Minnesota, Twin-Cities campus where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in biology in 2007 before proceeding to the University of Minnesota School of Medicine and completing in 2011.

Dr Mairura is now based in Texas, USA where one of special areas of interest include anterior total hip replacements and total knee replacements.   

Though from early on, he was good in mathematics and science and knew a career in sciences would be one of his life choices, he credits the book ‘Gifted Hands’ by American neurosurgeon, Dr Ben Carson, as another motivator to become a doctor.

And what is more, “there was a lot of positive influences within the family towards medicine, especially from my sister who is a doctor, and also reading medical books which made me feel like the most natural thing to do is to help humanity,” says Dr Mairura.

His mother also contributed to this dream when she bought him “Gifted Hands” by Ben Carson whose story he could connect with as Carson’s upbringing and experiences were relatable. It was then that  he began entertaining the idea of getting into the medical field.

As he went through high school and college he started spending time volunteering in hospitals, a background that motivated him to pursue medicine some more.

The death of an uncle from bone tumor was his first exposure to orthopedic surgery and his interactions with the doctors who were taking care of him inspired him to specialise in that field in a journey that took more than a decade to finish.

Picture this: he started college aged 17 and left aged 30 when he got his first job after 13 years of training in surgery which was challenging owing to the number of hours one puts in.

“There are times my alarm would go off at 3.30 am in the morning and I am awake for the next 30 hours or more, being able to sustain that over a period of five years is quite demanding for any human being,” says Dr Mairura. “One thing I learnt is that your body can actually sustain and handle a lot.”

This, he says, was important in the preparation for a career involving independence and without supervision or mistakes, but having a close, supportive family helped. That includes his supportive wife, Selina, who is crucial in managing a good work-life balance.

“Sometimes it means going home for the weekend to grab some chapati from mum or going to church and it also means staying at home one afternoon and catching a nap to get some normalcy,” says Dr Mairura who has interest in coming back home to work as a way of giving back to the society he grew up in.

To recreate connections with local orthopedic surgeons, the recipient of the 2016 Gustillo resident research award for the best effort at the University Of Minnesota Department Of Orthopaedic Surgery, jets back two or thrice a year.

And as part of his passion for international medical missions, Dr Mairura plans to establish a health facility in Kisii County.  

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