Fetenech’s New Lease on Life

In the 60 years since she first arrived in Ethiopia, Dr Catherine Hamlin and her team have treated over 60,000 women to repair their fistula injuries; the healing however, does not end there. Central to the Hamlin Model of Care is the provision of compassionate and complete care through rehabilitation. Fetenech’s story proves the power of rehabilitative services in restoring independence as well as good health to patients.

Fetenech’s Journey

Fetenech’s smile is radiating. Her story however, is not without tragedy.

Fetenech was just a teenager when she suffered complications while giving birth. For three days she experienced unimaginable pain with an obstructed labour. Tragically, her baby was stillborn.

As she mourned, the full extent of Fetenech’s injuries were revealed: she had suffered a double fistula. Her fistulas caused her to become incontinent of both urine and faeces. Not only was the condition debilitating and uncomfortable, it also caused Fetenech embarrassment and social isolation.

For seven years, Fetenech’s life was defined by her fistula injuries. A turning point came when she was referred to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital where she was cured.

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

After her successful surgery at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, Fetenech went to Desta Mender for rehabilitative care. As part of her rehabilitation, Fetenech received business skills training. Learning how to manage a business and manage orders gave Fetenech the tools she needed to start her own venture – a cafe.

Fetenech has been running her coffee shop for five years now. She is engaged with her customers and business is prospering. Moreover, Fetenech herself is thriving: independent, her life is no longer defined by fistula.

“I am born again and want to focus on my bright future ahead,” says Fetenech.

A Village of Joy

In 2002, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia opened Desta Mender as a centre of rehabilitation and reintegration. Desta Mender is Amharic for ‘Joy Village’. As part of a holistic approach to healthcare, patients receive specialised counselling as well as skills training that are individually tailored to each patient.

With new skills and emotional support, fistula patients can return to their communities with a new lease on life – able to contribute to their societies, support their families and fulfil their dreams.

The Hamlin Model of Care has transformed the way fistula patients are cared for. It is a testament to Catherine’s care and dedication to the women of Ethiopia for the past 60 years. She is now 95 years old and maintains her dream of a fistula-free Ethiopia by 2030. You can help make her dream a reality by donating here.

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