“If you have no leg, you can go with a crutch. If you are blind, somebody to help you around. For fistula, this is worse. Family, father, brother, mum, they can’t help but the patient themselves. This is myself, with my mother and sister, I would be ashamed, because when I get up, there might be smell, might be leaking and soaked to the clothes. The patient themself, myself, I want to be alone.” Mamitu
Like so many staff and patients, to Mamitu Catherine Hamlin is family. She affectionately calls her Emaye (mother).
Mamitu came to the hospital as a patient in 1962 at the age of 16 with a horrific obstetric fistula injury. After several operations she was cured and dry.
Mamitu was so grateful that she dedicated her life to helping other women with an obstetric fistula.
Catherine and Reg saw that Mamitu was somebody special. They took her under their wing. She started by helping to make the beds and it was not long before she graduated to helping in theatre.
Mamitu has a special love and empathy for the patients. Catherine says she has seen her many times with tears in her eyes as she welcomes sad patients to the hospital who own nothing in the world but their urine soaked clothes.
Despite never graduating from primary school, Mamitu is now one of the world’s most skilled fistula surgeons.
More than 50 years later, she is still working as a surgeon at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital.