Dr Catherine Hamlin‘s stature in Ethiopian society is the result of her incredible devotion to her patients. Catherine’s commitment to her patients saw her devote her life to the eradication of obstetric fistula. For 61 years she has raised the public’s awareness of the plight of women suffering from fistula, as well as treating – alongside her team – over 70,000 women.
Treating people with the compassion they deserve
In creating the Hamlin Model of Care, the Hamlins placed primacy in respecting fistula patients and treating them with complete and compassionate care. For many fistula patients, the incontinence as a result of their injury leads to social exclusion and ostracisation by their families.
The stigma around fistula can be a barrier to seeking help. According to Catherine, “because of this injury, they’re ashamed and they won’t come out and talk about it because it’s to do with being incontinent of urine and body waste.”
With compassionate care – through acts as simple as giving a patient a new dress and a warm, colourful blanket – and the creation of a loving community of patients and staff at Hamlin hospitals, patients are able to recover more fully. “The patients have a social life together. We see them talking and once they start to gossip with each other and find a group that speaks their own language, they feel at home, they feel they’re not being ostracised from their society. They’re loved and they feel welcome. So this is where the healing process starts, of the mind, and this is very important,” said Catherine.
A human touch
Catherine’s caring touch for women too often isolated from their communities has not gone unnoticed by others. In ‘Lighting a Candle’, a 2010 documentary directed by Steven Salgo, Catherine’s immense empathy was highlighted by patients and members of staff. Of particular note were the remarks of Annette Bennett, the Founding Dean of the Hamlin College of Midwives; Annette noted that Catherine would personally “go out of her way to care for women.”
In Catherine’s words, “I just love these women. My feeling for them, my compassion for them, is unending.” Catherine believed that every woman deserves a safe and clean delivery. You can help realise Catherine’s vision of eradicating fistula. Forever here.