Obstetric fistula is a complex injury that requires special care. The physical and psychological consequences of this childbirth injury are debilitating and heartbreaking.
Australian surgeon Dr Catherine Hamlin pioneered a complete treatment for women suffering obstetric fistulas. Surgical repair, rehabilitation, counselling and reintegration all form the elements of what has been recognised as world-best practice in preoperative and postoperative fistula care.
The Hamlin Model of Care is grounded in a fundamental respect for women who suffer this condition and a commitment to provide complete and compassionate care.
Upon arrival at a Hamlin hospital, patients are embraced with tender and loving care. They are given nutritious food, a handmade woven blanket, and clean clothing. A customised program is made for each woman that includes nutrition, physical therapy, counselling and rehabilitation.
Due to the stigma associated with obstetric fistula, many women cannot return to their communities and few have an income that allows them to live independently. That’s why Dr Hamlin founded Desta Mender (‘Joy Village’) in 2002 as a recovery centre where long-term fistula patients with severe injuries can continue to heal.
After 60 years the Hamlin Model of Care remains a core part of the organisation today. It is a culture instilled across the work of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia. Many of our 550 staff worked alongside Catherine over many years, even decades, and were greatly inspired by her passion and professionalism. In fact, many are also former fistula patients themselves.
The result is clinical excellence that does not compromise on treating every woman with compassion and dignity.
Most fistula patients suffer not just physical scars, but emotional trauma too. Rebuilding self-belief and harnessing inner strength is key to rehabilitation. We provide women with the empathetic support they need to regain their sense of self – sometimes after years of living in shame and social isolation.
Many patients have suffered nerve damage during labour and muscle contractures after months or years of immobility. Pre and post fistula surgery care and physio is provided to each patient.
Reintegration – Vocational Education & Training
Reintegration, including literacy and numeracy classes, and vocational and life skills training. We also support women in finding sustainable employment or starting their own businesses. In many cases, they may have lost everything, and so this support is critical to equipping women to return to their communities.
Good nutrition is an essential part of healing and recovery. Our patients are given healthy, traditional Ethiopian food during their stay with us.
Our patient’s healing starts as soon as she arrives, when she is given a nightgown and slippers to wear during her stay. On the day she leaves, she is presented with a new dress to celebrate her return home.
A Hamlin Blanket
Every patient receives a colourful hand-knitted blanket when she arrives at a Hamlin hospital – a symbol of her life being woven back together.