As It Happens

Medical student now studying at children's hospital that saved his life 36 years ago

When medical student Adam Shehata began his rotation at Toronto's SickKids hospital this week, it was like coming full circle.

Adam Shehata starts rotation at Toronto's SickKids, where he was nursed back to health after premature birth

Medical student Adam Shehata is beginning his rotation at SickKids hospital, where he spent five months as an infant. (Submitted by Adam Shehata )
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When medical student Adam Shehata began his rotation at Toronto's SickKids hospital this week, it was like coming full circle. 

That's because 36 years ago, he spent the first five precarious months of his life under the care of the hospital's doctors and nurses. 

"It really dawned on me as I was about to walk through the doors that, you know, I'm returning to a place where for me, it all started," Shehata told As It Happens guest host Susan Bonner. 

"That was just really special for me."

Premature baby

Shehata was born prematurely at 24 weeks in 1982, he said.  At 1 pound and 7 ounces, he says he was "just on the edge of viability."

"I can tell you that even today, kids born at that gestational age, it's extremely unlikely that they'll live, let alone, you know, have sort of a healthy life," he said. 

He was immediately transferred to SickKids upon birth, where he required round-the-clock care. 

The Hospital for Sick Children, or SickKids, is a teaching hospital in downtown Toronto. (Shutterstock/JHVEPhoto)

His parents, both recent immigrants from Egypt, had another three-year-old son at home and lived over an hour away in Pickering, Ont., but they made the trip every day to visit him.

It's a trek that would remain familiar throughout his childhood.

"For many, many year after that I would be going back to SickKids on a regular basis for regular checkups," he said.

Shehata said he suffered a plethora of health problems as a kid, including asthma and ear infections, and had to undergo occupational therapy and multiple surgeries.

'The journey continues from here'

But he hasn't let any of that slow him down.

Shehata has a pilot's licence and a law degree, he said, and is now attending the University of Toronto, which he says is one of the best medical schools in the world. 

In fact, it was SickKids that inspired him on this latest career path. 

Shehata, a U of T medical student, busy at work studying. (Submitted by Adam Shehata )

He and his wife had their first baby, who like him, had a rough start in life due to a heart condition. 

He had finished piloting school just before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S., and there were very few jobs available in the commercial airline industry.

"It was actually contact with a doctor at SickKids who we were seeing for a consultation who made me think if I'm thinking of a career change, it could be medicine," he said.

It took him several applications to med school before he finally got accepted, and the rest is history.

Shehata shared his story on Twitter on Monday, where it's been liked more than 2,000 times.

"I had maybe a hundred followers or so before," he said. "I thought: I'm walking through the doors, this is quite the nice scene, maybe some of my family might enjoy seeing this."

He said he's since heard from former colleagues, medical professionals and parents of premature children thanking him for speaking about such a difficult topic. 

"It's nice to hear, you know, these kinds of stories because no one really ever knows exactly what's going to happen," he said.

"I never would have thought something like this was going to happen to me ... and you know, the journey continues from here."

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Produced by Katie Geleff.