I lost my mum in 2003 due to complications of peripheral arterial disease. I was young then - about 19 years old. I remember being in the car with my mum when she complained about having shortness of breath. I followed her to a hospital in Lagos but at the time, I knew nothing about medicine. The doctor handed me my mum’s belongings and I felt numb seeing my dad crying by her bedside.
I moved to Hungary the next year and enrolled at the University of Debrecen to study medicine. Every year, Dad sent me his last pennies to pay for school. He checked on me regularly from Nigeria because he was happy that his son was going to be a doctor. I just finished my fifth year of school when Dad died from pancreatic cancer - I only had one more year left. We were already planning for my graduation. I went through depression while the financial debt towards my university increased. I started doing some side hustles like hosting events but the money wasn’t enough. I started squatting with a cousin I had in Hungary because there was nowhere else to go.
I didn’t want to tell people about my problems because most did not understand. My girlfriend at the time would ask questions but I left details out to not be a burden. I thought I needed time to figure things out for myself. She came to visit me where I was staying one day and told me her mum wanted to meet me. I wasn't interested in meeting anyone at that time, but we met at the mall and the meeting went well. The next day her mum gave me the key to a newly built 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom kitchen apartment. It was a miracle. I was a student from Nigeria who had nothing but she and her parents accepted me. They helped me to get back on my feet.
A degree that would normally take 6 years, took me 13 years. I took time to study, to repeat courses, to reapply for my student visa when it expired, and to save money to pay for school. My girlfriend became my biggest supporter and is now my wife. We have a daughter now and named her, Itanife which means, “the story of love."
When I wear my white coat, I am praised and I feel honored but still, deep down, it pains me to know neither of my parents are alive to see me become the doctor they imagined. They sacrificed so much for me and I can’t repay them now but I take solace in knowing that I can at least pay it forward by helping others.
Dr. Oladipupo Ojo is a Nigerian from Ekiti State who currently works as a Vascular Surgery Resident in Hungary. We interviewed him at AfroVibes to share his story. This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.