Mamitu Gashe, lifelong friend and colleague of Dr Catherine Hamlin, recently gave a moving interview with BBC Radio, shedding light on her extraordinary journey and life at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. In the interview, she tells of her extraordinary journey and transformation from fistula patient to fistula surgeon. Listen below:
A Journey of Hope
At age 16, Mamitu experienced an obstructed labour which lasted for four days. At the end of this ordeal, her baby was stillborn and she was left with an obstetric fistula. After weeks of suffering with intense pain and uncontrollable incontinence caused by the injury, she embarked on the long journey to the capital, in hope of a cure.
She arrived at the Princess Tsehai Memorial Hospital, where she met Drs Catherine and Reg Hamlin. They welcomed her with love and compassion and told her that she would be cured.
“As soon as they said that, I felt hopeful. I felt so happy, and I stayed there until I felt stronger.” – Mamitu
From Patient to Surgeon
After her surgery, Mamitu began helping out around the hospital, firstly by making the beds of her fellow patients. She mirrored the compassion that she received from Catherine and Reg, expressing that she wanted to help the women around her.
Noticing her hard work and willingness to learn new skills, Reg soon asked Mamitu if she would like to observe how fistula repair surgeries were performed. From here, Mamitu began assisting Reg in fistula surgeries, sewing up wounds or making incisions. She began training in fistula repair surgeries under Catherine and Reg and went on to become an internationally renowned fistula surgeon. In 1989, she won the Gold Medal for surgery from the Royal College of Surgeons in London.
Her personal experience of fistula gives Mamitu a profound sense of understanding and compassion for the patients at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital:
“I know exactly what they are going through; I’ve been through that pain. It gives them a tremendous sense of ease when I tell them I was once just like them, so they know they can be cured” – Mamitu
A Life Dedicated to Others
Now age 72, Mamitu still lives on the hospital grounds and spends most of her days with Catherine, who she calls ‘Emaye’, Amharic for Mother.
“I’ve known Dr Catherine Hamlin since I was a little girl, so she’s just like a mother to me.”
Like Reg and Catherine, Mamitu has devoted her life to the women of Ethiopia. Once a fistula patient herself, she has spent decades working alongside Catherine, Reg and the Hamlin team to cure over 60,000 women. A woman with a remarkable story, she was named as one of BBC’s 100 most inspiring women for 2018.
Mamitu shares in Catherine’s dream to eradicate fistula. Forever. Please consider donating here to help make this a reality.