Getting pregnant at 19 informed my choice of profession

A senior lecturer at Makerere University, Paediatrician and Adolescent Health Specialist at College of Health Sciences at Mulago National Referral Hospital, wife and mother of five, Dr Kitaka has a timetable to run her day.

Becoming a teenage mother
Dr Kitaka’s mishap as a teenager informed her desire to work with teenagers so that they don’t fall victims like she did due to naivety. In her Senior Six, she felt her world shattered after realising she was pregnant on her first sexual encounter. Confused, she confided in Sister Cephas Cormack, the former Headmistress Mount St Mary’s Namagunga. “Despite the strictness in the Catholic school, she told me she had watched me grow, told me to take heart focus on my upcoming examinations,” she recalls.

That really helped settle in the school and when A’Level results were released, she was admitted on government sponsorship to Makerere University to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Medicine. Her parents were also understanding and supportive of her when she returned from school.

Her parents took her up, cared for her and she successfully had her baby. Not that they supported her act but recognised that a mistake had been made and preferred to look for the way forward.
From then she started recognising the problems affecting adolescents and hoped to help address them someday.

Working with adolescents
In 2003 during a period of medical training at Makerere University on Infectious Disease, she wrote a thesis on adolescent health and it was used to start up several HIV clinics, with the first being supported by Baylor at Mulago Hospital. Other general adolescent clinics were started up to help address youth challenges such as career development and sexuality.
Adolescent clinics that take care of children aged 10 – 29 are located in and affiliated to Mulago hospital and offer psychosocial counselling, school health assessment, STI screening, treatment and sexual and reproductive.

Besides the check-ups at the hospital, the clinics sometimes organise workshops and seminars to urge the youth to abstain and emphasise to them the implications of early involvements such as dropping out of school and imprisonment since the law provides for arrest for both (boy and girl) who indulge in early sex. As an adolescent health specialist, Dr Kitaka endevours to get good speakers that can impact on the adolescents.

The one-on-one counselling sessions are her most challenging. In these sessions, she says that she sometimes fights to hold back her emotions most especially with HIV infected adolescents because they have lots of unique stories with some so depressing yet she has to give them hope.

“One of the patients who hurt me the most was a Senior Four student who refused to start medication even with his mother begging and crying because he had read about the side effects and died soon after,” she recalls.
However, there are success stories with the most recent one being at the Full Woman Health Camp when a young woman walked to her and introduced herself as one of her patients at Baylor.

Much as the clinics support these adolescents, she says disclosure and transitioning the adolescents to the main hospital are still a main problem.

She says, “After getting used to direct attention, they find it difficult to blend into the main hospitals.” These clinics encourage adolescents to come in to seek for career guidance. “Recently, a girl travelled from Mbarara to come and ask me if she should do medicine or Psychology and after studying her interests realised she actually loves psychology,” she narrates.

Since the clinics have a fully-fledged team with psychiatrists, counsellors and psychologists, Dr Kitaka sent her to a psychologist for expert aice. After the psychologist studying her interests and personality, she is going to do community psychology.

Kitaka’s tips
Parents on sex
Though the clinics counsel the adolescents, parents need to play a role after all not all the adolescents can access the services. She says there is a lot of silence on sex and yet parents should tell their children about it early so that they guard against anyone taking aantage of their innocence. She says, “Even by three years, parents should begin telling their children about sex say for instance that don’t let anybody touch this part because it’s private.”

Beauty secret
Everyone who has seen Dr Kitaka will admit she looks sweet 16. She admits she loves to look good and ensures to look her best before leaving her house. To keep in shape she does sit-ups every morning and Aerobics once in a while. Then also, she says she and her husband are each other’s weight keepers. They constantly remind each other to work out when one is getting out of shape.

Family time
In her home, meal time is family time and her family takes every breakfast and dinner together. Saturday is the children’s day out and Friday night their date night where her and husband go out alone.

Career aice to women
Admitting that it may be difficult to balance work and babies, she aises women to have children early and then pursue their careers uninterrupted.

Fact file

Sabrina Kitaka 43, was born to Engineer Ssemuli Bakeera (RIP), a mining engineer at Kilembe Mines and Teddy Bakeera, a retired nurse at Kilembe Mines hospital.
Married to Dr Andrew Kitaka, she attended Namugunga preparatory School, Mount St. Mary’s Namagunga for O andA’level and then joined Makerere University where she did a Bachelors of Medicine and Surgery.
She is a Senior Lecturer, Paediatrician and Adolescent Health Specialist in the Department of Paediatrics Makerere University, College of Health Sciences and Mulago National Referral Hospital, respectively.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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