Updated: Jun 28
Have you ever heard of a medical spa?
Neither have I.
Not until I walked into one; hidden in a cul de sac in Nairobi’s leafy suburbs. It’s unimposing with no signage leading to it or at its gate. Google maps can’t find it. That’s why I got lost. I had to get directions verbatim like in the days before the invention of colour television.
“You see that blue gate that has spikes on the top and a pink storeyed building on your left?”my host explained.
“Don’t turn there. It’s the black gate with a guard house on the right of the blue gate.”
That kind of thing.
When I got there, it was well worth the driving doodle. The lawn looked self assured; daring my shoes to step on it. I didn't. The place was fully occupied so I only got to see the common areas, the operating theatres and one room. One look at the furniture made me wonder whether it was for use or on display. Too bad I couldn’t stay indoors for long. The clientele choose that joint for a reason. Heck the President could be in one of those rooms and no one would know.
But enough about the spa for now. What’s more intriguing is the face behind it. She is the one I went to see.
The string from the tangled ball of wool that led Dr Sheila to where she is now started in The Military. Well, it started way before that but the crux of it was the Military. A place she was posted to as a Medical Intern because she had a special needs child. And needed to be in the city.
Her game plan, was to work for them for a number of years in order to get sponsorship for residency.
Until she started the horrific training that saw her bald, eating food from the ground and sitting on ant hills. Ok, ok it wasn’t that bad but you get the idea.
She soon realised she had sold her soul for a cup of soup. They owned her. Sent her wherever the wind blew and it blew her all the way to South Sudan.
I dare say this is where life began to take a curve for Sheila but there are so many curves in this story, I might as well tell it and leave you to pick whichever suits you.
In South Sudan, time was interminable. She was the only breasted human for miles and with all the boredom, she had three paths she could follow. Become a prostitute, a religious fanatic or an alcoholic.
She had tried the alcohol path and it ended up in wasted nights and hangover days. So that stopped. She then chose the religious path. Dove into the deep seas of Christianity; became that chic who would give testimonies every Sunday.
“Does anyone have a word, a bible verse, a testimony today?” The Pastor would ask.
“Me.” Sheila would walk to the front and preach a second sermon.
This phase lasted the length of a test drive because she met someone who taught her about Islam. He packaged and wrapped it so well for her, she bought it. If Christianity was a deep dive, Islam was a submersion.
“I took to it and became so committed that I stopped shaking people’s hands, wearing trousers and covered my hair." Not a morsel of her caramel coloured skin was visible. This saved her from the third path - prostitution.
Because it was not enough to profess her faith and do nothing, she went out into the Community and put her medical knowledge to use. She started a midwifery school.
“I went to the Governors of that state and pitched an idea. We then recruited the Traditional Birth Attendants from the area and I started to teach them.” What they call a CIMIC activity in Military Lingua. This initiative attracted donors and by the time she left, it was a stand alone Midwifery School. A community had been changed. But so had Sheila. She came back home with a truckload of money.
The first thing she did was put a down payment on a house but then things started to spiral.
The system necessitated her to wear trousers and uncover her hair while in uniform. A requirement that she refused to swallow. That was the beginning of her rebellion. And to add pepper to Indian curry, she went on to fall in love with and marry a Somali man.
“This solidified my faith. But made me a target of suspicion. I had left the country a Christian, and come back a Muslim. One bordering on fanaticism.” And it didn’t help her case that it was the season of terror attacks in Kenya. Her superiors were not happy. She was questioned about her faith, her husband and when her thermostat broke, she couldn’t take the heat anymore. She left the Kitchen. And resigned from the Military.
I should have just named this article the eight curves of Sheila’s lives. But where is the fun in that?
By the time she substituted her combat wear for plain clothes Sheila was pregnant and luckily in a new job. In Mombasa. That meant relocating the family. So they packed up everything they had and moved to the Coast. The job however was short lived. The pregnancy was complicated necessitating rest so she had to resign. Because her husband had also left his budding business in Nairobi, they found themselves jobless.
This is not a curve.
Remember that truck load of money? It was still there in plenty so they were able to maintain a steady lifestyle for a while.
The curve however was his family. Particularly his mom.
“She detested me. Because I was not Somali or born Muslim. And the rest of his family were like ants on a trail. They followed suit.”
The next curve was the pregnancy itself. Not only was it complicated, it was choosy. It couldn't stand her husband and caused them to drift apart. He started to leave the house on Friday evenings to watch football with friends and then return on Sunday at odd hours.
Sundays were no longer sunny. They bickered like rabid dogs.
“My mind was on a bender trying to figure out what was going on. He didn’t drink, smoke or chew miraa. Where was he going every weekend?” Sheila felt alone and alienated with no family nearby. She had no one to reach out to, least of all her in laws who never even attended their wedding to begin with.
But things started to look up. She went on to deliver a baby girl and in a month or so obtained a full scholarship to study at a renown University in South Africa. The excitement of a new baby and a looming change of environment was the string that pulled them back together. And because the money in the truck could only now fit in a wallet, they sold everything they had. Down to their bedding and spoons. The boat of their relationship was now still. So Sheila opted to deposit all the proceeds in his account- you know to avoid rocking the boat.
The weekend before their flight, her husband went out one last time. Something about an epic match he couldn’t miss. On Sunday evening though, he wasn’t back.
“I was livid. There we were, in a hollow house with nothing but our clothes and passports and he was nowhere to be found!”
The following day - Monday - was just an ordinary day. Children in the neighbourhood were up early for school, their parents were heading to work. Vehicles were ploughing the roads, shops were opening. The fact is, it was an ordinary day. Until the neighbour called her.
“We have found your husband by the roadside,” a pause so long Sheila thought the line had been disconnected, “you need to come identify him.”
“What are you saying?”
The thing about receiving news of death is you never hear it the first time. Or maybe you do, but you refuse to synthesise it. It’s as if you want the messenger to keep saying it on a loop until they correct themselves.
It was discovered that on his way back home on Sunday, he was attacked by thugs who hit him square on the head. He bled out and died and was found the following morning.
Their daughter was barely two months old.
“This was my first exposure to an Islam burial. He was in the ground so fast, I didn’t have time to properly grieve. But the worst was yet to come.”
When she went to the bank to withdraw the money she was informed that she could not gain access. She was not listed as the next of kin. His mom was. And just like that Sheila’s worst fears happened in quick succession. Fear of being a widow. Fear of being broke.
Broke may be a mild term. She had nothing.
She was able to come to Nairobi with her children and put up with her sister for a month. In that time she turned every stone, in search for work but came up empty. Her welcome had also run its course. That’s when she began giving health talks for a paltry four or five thousand kenya shillings. With that, she moved out but not to another house. To another fear.
The fear of homelessness.
You never think it can happen to you until it does. You use all the tokens of kindness you have from family and when they run out, they run out. The house she bought had also been repossessed by the bank. So she borrowed a car from a former colleague who was on mission. She would call a friend she hadn’t seen in a while and say, “Hiii. It’s been a minute. You know I got a baby? Yeah. I can come visit.”
And she would show up, eat, freshen up the kids then in the evening, park the car some where safe and sleep.
She did this for a while until she met a friend who was relocating and had leftover rent for her house. Sheila had saved a few coins and was able to move in to that house. She went and bought the basics. Mattresses, some food and used some curtains her sister had given her as bedsheets.
It is at that point that she finally allowed herself to break down. With muffled sobs she held a pity party and attended it in full gear. Then after the party was over, she gathered the wreckage of her feelings and called herself to a meeting.
“Sheila, this is the last time you are going to live like this. Or despair like this. What do you have in your hand?”
“A medical degree.” She told herself.
“But no one will hire me. There are jobless doctors everywhere.”
“Ok. What can I do as I wait for employment?”
“I don’t know. Get out and look for something.”
So she got a help who she would pay in installments to watch her children.
Then she started to walk on the roads. Heading nowhere in particular but looking for something. She beat the path from one locale to the next, sometimes eavesdropping on conversations. It is during one of these moments that she heard that printing campaign T-shirts was the new quail egg.
“It hadn’t hit me, it was an election year. So I went and bought T- shirts and branded them for a certain political outfit.” But the plan fell flat on its face.
Back to the thinking booth. Or let’s call it the walking booth. Because she would just walk, look around and think. Then she got another idea.
“I came up with a business proposal for an E-medicine platform. I called it The Click Clinic. I thought it was brilliant since telemedicine was a budding concept.”
She called a few old acquaintances and pitched for funding.
“That sounds like a good idea Dr Sheila.” One financier said to her after her pitch. “How much financing do you need?”
He gave her the look a father gives his five year old child who has asked for the car keys to drive.
“Sorry Dr Sheila, I only finance businesses upwards of 500 million kenya shillings.”
Now it was Sheila’s turn to give him the look.
She went away dejected but after her brain matter had cooled she sat down again. And wrote a business model that would cost close to that amount. She literally built an empire on paper then went back. But that ship had sailed.
She took her idea to the next ship.
“Sorry we don’t finance individuals. Only companies.” They told her.
“Please give me a chance. Hear me out,” she pleaded and sat there potted like a plant refusing to leave.
They did hear her out and they loved her pitch and gave her someone to manage her account and connect her with foreign investors.
They went round and round until they landed on the Polish. Who still didn’t agree to fund her idea.
They took her on as a middle man for another product they wanted to sell in the local market. And that is how the curves started to straighten out.
Because of her stint in the Military ( I told you the Military has a huge role in this story), she had made several contacts high up in Government. For obvious reasons I will not name the exact offices but when I say high up, think Burj Khalifa.
She became the supplier for that product and because of her medical background became their point man for medical supplies.
In 2020, when Covid landed she was the go to guy for masks and all things covid for top government offices. And when the money poured in she became more fearless. She tunneled herself out and ventured into several businesses.
This is how “Rays define MedSpa” was birthed. Her current brain child.
“I am a completely different person than I was five years ago and five years before that. I am a sum of my experiences so I live by certain principles because of what life has taught me.
I allow myself to think big and it didn’t start when the money came. It started before. If there is a ceiling best believe I am above it. Secondly, I faithfully tithe 10% of my income. No matter how much or how little. Yes there are times my account dips to below ankle level but even then, I have been broke before, what is there to fear? Thirdly, the best way to receive more is to give. I believe in giving for it is in giving that I open my arms to receive.”
As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.
Above are the pictures of Rays Define Medispa owned by Dr Sheila.
For more information about their location and the services they offer, click here: https://g.page/RaysDefine?gm
A medical spa is an outfit that combines some medical procedures normally performed in a doctor's office with the experience of a day spa.
It operates under the supervision of qualified medical personnel.
Most services tend to be aesthetic or cosmetic and use cutting edge technology combined with relaxation techniques for a desired outcome - to pamper or rejuvenate the patient.
Think of it as going to a day spa but for medical treatment. It is slow paced, patient centered and wholistic.