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Fistula-free and thriving

A decade of suffering

When Yitaktu’s father brought her to Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, she could barely walk. Yitaktu was just a teenager when she suffered an obstetric fistula, which left her incontinent and with a severe leg injury. The obstructed labour that caused Yitaktu’s fistula lasted three days, but it caused a lifetime of pain and agony. Yitaktu’s baby was stillborn, her injury had left her immobile and her husband had decided to leave her.

Yitaktu’s father was determined to find a cure for his daughter’s injury when he heard of the work of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia.

For the next many years, Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital became a second home to Yitaktu. Whilst many fistulas can be repaired with a single surgery, Yitaktu’s injury was so severe that she had to have multiple surgeries. She would regularly make the long journey from her small, rural village in North Shoa to Hamlin’s main hospital in Ethiopia’s capital to undergo treatment. Even after six surgeries she was still not cured.

Yitaktu underwent her final surgery, and it was successful! After years of suffering, she was finally cured.

“My being cured is like a miracle. I never had thought of cure throughout the devastating 10 years with fistula. I had been blaming myself for being a burden on my caring father. It was his strength that gave me endurance and stay alive to the end,” Yitaktu recalls.

     

Empowered at Desta Mender

Following her final surgery, Yitaktu moved to Desta Mender, Hamlin’s rehabilitation centre that provides ongoing support for long-term fistula survivors. As part of her personalised treatment program at Desta Mender, Yitaktu took training classes on small business management, which gave her the tools she needed to lead an independent life once she moved back into her community.

“In my three months stay at Desta Mender I got lots of new life skills and business skills which still I am using them in my day to day life,” said Yitaktu.

           

Seeds of success

Yitaktu decided she wanted to work in the agriculture industry so that she could grow the food that would feed her community. She received a small start-up grant facilitated by Hamlin to help her realise her goal, and used this money to rent a plot of farmland just outside her hometown. Yitaktu was soon selling her vegetables at the local market!

Her family would regularly visit her market stall and show their support. Yitaktu also has the full support of her new husband, who works with her on her farm.

“He is the payback for my first marriage life. He knew everything about my treatment and treats me as a queen. He is loveable even with my family. I am lucky to have him,” Yitaktu says.

Yitaktu harvests her crops twice a year and her farm continues to grow with the support of her elder brother and husband. Following her first ever harvest, Yitaktu had already doubled her initial investment. She has expanded her business beyond vegetables and makes craft pieces to sell at the market using the skills she learnt at Desta Mender. Yitaktu continues to grow as a person alongside her business.

“With all your support I regained my dignity, confident to participate in any socialisation and have my own income to lead an independent life. You totally transformed my life and put me on to a happiness I had never been before. My deepest thanks to you all for your endless support in reconstructing my life,” Yitaktu said.

           

Happiness and hope 

We recently visited Yitaktu at home, who couldn’t contain her smile. She told us that she is living a happy and fulfilling life. Yitaktu’s farm has grown four-fold since she first started, and it still has the capacity to expand. Her dream is to have children and build a house with her husband to raise their family in. Yitaktu will find out whether she can still have children after her next medical check-up, but her dream of owning her own home is within reach.

“The first person I would like to thank most is my father. He was there on my side in all those days of agony, washing my cloths, showering my body and searching for cure. Next to my father I would like to forward my heartfelt thanks to Emaye (Dr. Catherine Hamlin) and the staff at the hospital. You are providing the best humanitarian holistic service for poor women like myself,” Yitaktu explains.

Every woman deserves to feel worthy. To empower a woman just like Yitaktu today, please consider donating at hamlin.org.au/empower 

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