Partners in life and in work, Drs Reg and Catherine Hamlin’s commitment to one another and to the most vulnerable women in Ethiopia was the foundation of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. Their 45 year partnership changed the lives of thousands of Ethiopian women when they pioneered a new surgical technique is fistula repair surgery. After Reg’s death in 1993, Catherine relied on friends and her internal resilience to continue her mission to eradicate fistula. Her resilience would ensure that thousands more women would have access to fistula repair surgery and avoid the trauma of an obstetric fistula.
A difficult time
In her autobiography co-written with John Little, ‘The Hospital By the River’, Catherine recalls the immense love and support she received in the days and months following Reg’s passing: “…it gave me solace to know that I was surrounded by people who showed their care and love.”
The bereavement customs of Ethiopia were different to what she had previously experienced, yet it was one which Catherine deeply admired and respected. Despite the support, Catherine had to overcome challenges. “Reg and I had done everything together, and it was difficult suddenly to be alone. At times I felt like just giving up,” she says.
Continuing a marvellous legacy
The devotion of the Hamlin staff was pivotal in helping Catherine through difficult times. The support of Hamlin gardener, Birru, was incredibly impactful and gave her encouragement.
The legacy that Catherine and Reg had built together had to be continued. No matter the difficulty, Catherine’s commitment to her patients guided her actions: “I knew I had a hospital to keep going and that I would have to continue to raise money, but with a staff so devoted and talented I was not alone.”
Catherine envisions an Ethiopia free of fistula by 2030. Click here to discover how you can help realise this dream.