Etagegn’s story is one of heartbreaking lows and hopeful highs: from a remote village near Limmu in the Oromiya Region, to the agony of obstetric fistula, to the optimism of a life restored after being lovingly cared for at Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital.
The agony of fistula
Etagegn is no stranger to tragedy. When she was young, her father passed away and she had no choice but to leave school to help her mother. Her education and childhood were cut short. When Etagegn was 20, she married and fell pregnant.
Like so many women living in rural Ethiopia, Etagegn never visited a health clinic during her pregnancy; the closest clinic was a four-hour walk away. Unable to walk that long in her condition, Etagegn planned to deliver the baby at home with an untrained birth attendant from the village.
Like 5% of women around the world, Etagegn had an obstructed labour. With no medical care during her birth, she laboured for hours, then days, praying that her baby would come out. Seven out of ten women in Ethiopia still give birth without medical assistance.
Etagegn’s labour went on and on – and nothing. She couldn’t continue like this, so her family made the decision to make the four-hour walk to the clinic, carrying her on a homemade stretcher the entire way. Etagegn finally arrived at the clinic, only to deliver a stillborn baby.
She returned home the next day, grieving the loss of her baby. Etagegn’s pain was compounded by the realisation that she had suffered some kind of internal injury. She was unable to move her legs properly and couldn’t control her body waste. Etagegn had suffered an obstetric fistula injury and was distraught. “That was the most shameful moment in my life. I wished I could die, rather than live in shame. I became completely hopeless,” reflects Etagegn.
Recovering with love
One of the most tragic consequences of a fistula injury is the shame and isolation associated with it. Due to her condition, Etagegn was ostracised by her community; her husband abandoned her, and she lived in isolation with no social interaction.
After months of living in shame, Etagegn knew she had to do something. She got up and slowly started walking in a desperate search for help. On her travels, she met a person who knew about obstetric fistula and Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia. He told Etagegn to make her way to a place called ‘The Hospital By the River‘ in Addis Ababa, where she would be treated with love.
In August 2020, amidst the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent transport closures and limitations, Etagegn finally arrived at Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital.
“I didn’t believe that there would be a cure for me until I reached this hospital and saw the amazing care for many women like me,” says Etagegn. She underwent a fistula repair surgery that healed her fistula injury and incontinence.
“Here, everything is different. The nurses and doctors treat me with love, I am served with delicious, nutritious meals. I do physical exercise at the physiotherapy centre, learn how to make crafts and surprisingly all of these services are totally free,” says Etagegn.
Despite the many challenges that she has had to overcome, Etagegn’s future, free of fistula and open to opportunity, looks optimistic. Thanks to our generous supporters, Etagegn was treated free of charge. You can help more women, like Etagegn, have their futures reshaped.
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