20 years ago, Amref Health Africa in Kenya started a medical mission to address and help women suffering from fistula. Since then we have restored dignity to over 100,000 women with fistula in Kenya and East Africa.
Fistula is a medical condition in which a fistula (hole) develops between either the rectum or vagina or between the bladder and vagina after severe or failed childbirth, when adequate medical care is not available.
This is the story of Rosemary Wairimu (24), who at the age of 17 lost her first child due to prolonged labour and lived for three years with obstetric fistula.
Rosemary’s Story/Wairimu’ s Story
Being pregnant and not in high school was not what I wanted for myself,' 'It was unexpected but I started looking forward to being a mother.
My labour lasted for hours. By the time they got me into theatre for a C-section, I was in a great deal of pain and in the end my baby was still born. I was discharged two days later. I soon noticed that I was unable to control my bladder. I didn't know what was happening to me. I would hide myself when visitors came over. I would wear two or three underwear at a time. I used so many pads too.
It was embarrassing and expensive. My mother took me to the national referral hospital for a check-up. I was diagnosed with vesci vaginal fistula (VVF). I wondered what that was! I was told that there was a hole between my vagina and bladder and this is why I couldn’t control my urine. The doctor recommended an operation.
I was now 18, childless and unable the control my bladder. I was not able to return to school as a result
I was still not able to control my urine after the operation. The doctor said I would have to live like this for the rest of my life. He sent me home with instructions on how to care for myself. I felt so hopeless and thought no one would ever love me’’. I thank God that my mother never left me some girls and women are rejected by the family. She took care of me. She washed me. She bought me sanitary pads and cleaned my clothes when I couldn't. She also kept my friends away when I needed to be by myself.' Another year went by. I decided to get another medical opinion and went to the national referral hospital.
After the second operation things were different.
This time I didn't urinate uncontrollably as before and I was not in pain. I had a bit of my life back; I could visit friends and began selling at my mother’s shop.
The operations had cost lots of money but this one had given me hope.
Another year passed. One Sunday afternoon my mother was listening to the radio. She heard about a free of charge medical mission by Amref Health Africa in Kenya at the referral hospital for fistula patients. So I went.
First they had to screen me again to verify that there was still a hole between my bladder and vagina. There was and my operation was set for that afternoon on a Tuesday.'
It was a success.
Three surgeries in three years. I never even thought I could be cured. I really thank God and Amref Health Africa. That's all I needed - one more surgery.'
Wairimu was fully cured at age 19. She began the process of reintegrating herself with her friends and family.
Now at 24 I have gone back to high school to complete my diploma. I am making the best of my second chance. I wish I knew then what I know now, maybe my child would be with me today. I lost a lot and I want young girls to learn from my story.'
Wairimu’s surgery through Amref Health Africa in Kenya was made possible due to the kind donation of individual donors and and our corporate partners.
The reason for this suffering is that these young girls or women are living with Obstetric Fistula (OF) due to complications which arose during child birth. Their babies are also probably dead, which adds to their depression, pain and suffering.
It is estimated that about 2,000 new women develop OF in Kenya each year.
Unless the sufferers have access to a hospital that provides treatment and care, women may live with the fistula until they die, often at a very young age, from complications of fistula.
In more developed countries women and girls do not suffer this indignity. Fistula surgery costs an average of Kshs. 60,000 per woman and takes an about three hours in theatre.
Fistula has a cure. It's surgical and women do not need to be silent and suffer alone. I urge women to seek medical advice and donors to give more so that women like me can dream again. We can have hope,' adds Wairimu.
On average about 20,000 women need fistula surgery every year in Kenya. Amref Health Africa in Kenya is able to offer free. Fistula repair Camps (VVF medical surgery) because of our partners and individual donors like you through your kind donation no matter how small we will together restore dignity to ostracised women. We need to reach every woman and with your help, we can.
You can help give, a woman suffering from this curable condition her dignity back.
Donate to Amref Health Africa in Kenya and let us together restore dignity to a mother, sister, aunt, grandmother, cousin or friend.
Story by: Rose Thuo