The terrible toll of childbirth injuries – Mitike’s story

Childbirth injuries are all too prevalent in many parts of the world. The entirely preventable injury – obstetric fistula – continues to be a public health issue in Ethiopia. For a woman like Mitike, it is often only after a journey of much heartbreak that she will finally have her dignity restored through life-changing fistula treatment.

Mitike’s journey is ultimately one of hope as she overcame the shame which came of her condition and is now living a normal life. She is just one of the 50,000 women who Dr Catherine Hamlin and her team have helped through the vision that all women should be able to safely deliver their babies without harm.

The struggle following obstetric fistula

Mitike is from the Oromiya region around Wellega and was young when she married a farmer in a rural village in the western part of Ethiopia. Over the next few years, Mitike had two daughters and one son and ensured all of her children attended school.

All of Mitike’s past deliveries had been at home without any problems so she never visited health facilities for her fourth pregnancy, even with the availability of a health clinic in close distance to her village. Unfortunately, her delivery did not go to plan. She laboured for a full day until she was taken to a nearby hospital for help. Sadly, it was too late for her to receive proper assistance and her baby was stillborn. Mitike was left incontinent of urine, which only added to the pain of losing her baby.

Mitike’s husband searched for better treatment by selling livestock and land and over the next few months Mitike and her husband visited various health facilities, but none were able to help. Mitike was left feeling ashamed of her condition. Running out of money, her husband lost hope and ended up leaving Mitike, unable to cope with his wife’s distress. Finally, Mitike was referred to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and, after begging for money from villagers, she arrived with her mother and uncle.

Moving forwards as a fistula survivor

Mitike arrived at our hospital five years ago and had surgery to close the fistula. However, some dripping remained due to the severity of muscle damage around the bladder so she was required to use a plug after receiving medical counselling on how to properly use it.

Since then, Mitike has regularly visited our hospital to change the plug and for other checkups. During all of the checkups, she showed improvement and is able to lead a normal life as before. Just last month, Mitike was attending the hospital for a checkup and she received the exciting news that she no longer needs to use a plug. She is cured and completely dry.

“This problem almost had ruined my whole life, lost my assets, my husband, and my happiness but thanks to this hospital I got my life back and now surprisingly get totally dry, no more follow up, no plug either. Which words of mouth can fully express my thanks to everybody in here? Thank you for your generosity,” Mitike said after her experience.

A lifetime of life-changing work

Dr Catherine Hamlin has been dedicated to the women of Ethiopia for over 60 years. When Catherine and her late husband, Dr Reg Hamlin, first arrived in Ethiopia in 1959, they were heartbroken to witness the shame and humiliation suffered by the many women struggling with childbirth injuries. They initially intended on staying for just three years,  but remained in the country to continue treating obstetric fistula sufferers. Dr Catherine Hamlin and her team have dramatically transformed the maternal healthcare landscape of Ethiopia.

To support this important work in treating and preventing childbirth injuries, donate to us today.

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