The tragedy of obstetric fistula
One of the worst things that can happen to a woman or girl is an obstetric fistula, an internal injury caused by an obstructed labour during childbirth that leaves her incontinent and shunned by her community.
The physical consequences of this childbirth injury are debilitating. The hole between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum leaves women leaking urine or faeces – and sometimes both. But if that wasn’t horrific enough, these women also endure the loss of their baby (in 93% of cases), social isolation, stigma and indignity.
The Hamlin Team believe no woman should suffer the indignity of an obstetric fistula. Dr Catherine Hamlin’s dream was to end fistula forever – and with your support, we’re getting closer to making her dream a reality.
Wubanchi is one of over 60,000 women who have come to us to have their obstetric fistula injury repaired at Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia. This is her story:
A mother’s worst nightmare
Wubanchi is from a small remote village in northern Ethiopia. It is a five hour walk to the closest town. While her village has a small health clinic providing general check-ups and health education, it does not cater for specialised maternal health care.
Wubanchi was happily married and overjoyed when she became pregnant with her first child. She visited her village’s clinic regularly during her pregnancy, but when Wubanchi went into labour it was clear something was wrong. She was in labour for three days.
On the third day, the women in her village made the decision to take her to the closest town with a government hospital – five hours away. Wubanchi was carried on a homemade stretcher.
During the ordeal she passed out, so it was a terrible shock for her to wake at the hospital and learn that she had delivered a stillborn baby. Grieving the loss of her child, Wubanchi then realised she had suffered a double fistula injury. She was incontinent of both urine and faeces.
The road to recovery
Thankfully, because of supporters like you, hope was not lost for Wubanchi. She spent a couple of months at the government hospital resting before she was referred by staff to Hamlin’s Mekele Fistula Hospital.
Shortly after arriving she had her rectal fistula successfully repaired, however she was still incontinent of urine. The damage to her bladder was very severe and due to the complexity of her injury, she was referred to Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, which has greater capacity for complex cases. Wubanchi returned home to her village for a period of time before being able to make the trip to Addis Ababa. It was during this time that Wubanchi felt the psychological pain of her fistula injury.
“I led a distressed, isolated life – taking myself away from mixing with the community and suffering a lot in concealing the case to relatives. It was kind of hard to live with injury. I gave up hope and even had left my husband and stayed with my mother.” – Wubanchi
Time passed and the day came that she was able to make the journey to the capital, Addis Ababa, for more treatment. Wubanchi went on to receive multiple surgeries at Hamlin to heal her injury. Today, Wubanchi is dry and cured!
Obstetric fistula is a complex injury that requires very special care. While Wubanchi’s incontinence had been treated, she still needed help dealing with the psychological consequences of her childbirth injury. Based on Dr Hamlin’s values, the Hamlin Model of Care combines clinical excellence with the restoration of patients’ dignity.
Our staff decided to send Wubanchi to Desta Mender, Hamlin’s Rehabilitation and Reintegration Centre for longer-term patients. Wubanchi graduated from her three-month customised rehabilitation and reintegration program. She has received ongoing counselling and has participated in literacy and numeracy classes and income-generating skills training.
Staff work hard to ensure that all past-patients leave Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia with dignity and independence.
“You have given me life again. I am confident and dreaming to continue my education and became a strong woman with a successful future. I found nothing strong enough to describe my heartfelt thanks to you.” – Wubanchi
Thanks to our generous supporters, fistula patients like Wubanchi receive care and training completely free of charge. To help restore the health and dignity of more women, please consider fundraising for us today. You can sign up to support us simply by walking!
Sign up to walk for Wubanchi and women like her. Find out more.
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