Throughout Dr Catherine Hamlin‘s 61 years in Ethiopia, two of her closest confidantes were Mamitu and Lete. These two remarkable women are former obstetric fistula sufferers who have dedicated their life after surgery to the fellow patients at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital.
Two resilient women
In 1962, 16-year-old Mamitu was carried into the Princess Tsehai Memorial Hospital close to death with horrific childbirth injuries. After receiving treatment and care, Mamitu remained with the Hamlins, working and learning alongside Catherine and Reg. She eventually became one of the world’s pre-eminent fistula surgeons and a gifted teacher, as well as Catherine’s daily companion and confidante. In 2018 she was named in the BBC’s top 100 most inspirational women.
Soon after Mamitu’s case, Lete arrived with terrible childbirth injuries. The Hamlins saved her life. Overwhelmed, Lete vowed she would stay at the hospital and work to help them. True to her word, Lete became one of the mainstays of the hospital and of Catherine’s life. “They treated me as their child and I was one of their family. They looked after me,” says Lete today. For many years Lete ran the outpatient’s department and one of the hospital stores. She is a favourite of the staff, and a trusted and valued friend to every patient who arrives.
A recognition of service
As well as honouring the lifelong contribution of Catherine, the 60th anniversary celebrations last year in Ethiopia also recognised the service of many long-term staff members who have been at the hospital for over 40 years. They were presented with a medal of service.
Among these recipients were Mamitu and Lete, their service over the decades making an immeasurable difference in the lives of patients. Also recognised was Gashe Birru, Catherine’s good friend and longtime colleague. All three were by Catherine’s side for decades and saw her as their “Emaye” – the Amharic word for mother.
Much of the success of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia can be attributed to the work of people like Mamitu and Lete. Their support and care for Catherine over the years has been tremendous; Mamitu and Lete were true friends to Catherine and champions for women’s maternal health.
A lifetime of caring
Dr Catherine Hamlin’s life was truly a gift to others. She worked tirelessly and selflessly for 61 of her 96 years helping Ethiopian women in need. The team at Hamlin have put together a beautiful commemorative booklet of Catherine’s life as a special keepsake. You can view it online here.
We need your continued support, now more than ever. Will you make a donation today to help finish what Catherine started?
During these uncertain times we are living in, one thing is certain, the team at Hamlin will not stop until fistula is eradicated forever. It is our hope that many others will join us in our efforts to finally eradicate this debilitating, humiliating, treatable condition. It would be a fitting tribute to Catherine’s life of love and service.