Obstetric fistula is a complex injury that requires special care. The physical and psychological consequences of this childbirth injury are debilitating and heartbreaking.
The hole between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum leaves survivors leaking urine or faeces – and sometimes both – through their vagina. But if that wasn’t horrific enough, these women almost always endure the loss of their baby, social isolation, stigma and loss of dignity.
Australian surgeon Dr Catherine Hamlin has pioneered a complete treatment for women suffering obstetric fistulas. Surgical repair, rehabilitation and counselling all form the elements of what has been recognised as world-best practice in preoperative fistula and postoperative fistula care.
The Hamlin Model of 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. After almost 60 years this remains a core part of the organisation today. It is a culture instilled across the work of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia. Many of our staff have worked alongside Catherine over many years, even decades, and have been 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. Each patient is given customised counselling.
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.
Literacy and numeracy classes
During her stay at Hamlin, each patient has access to numeracy and literacy classes, to help them thrive in their new life after treatment.
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.