Tuesday, 9 March 2021
In 2012, SIM’s Danja Fistula Center (DFC) opened its doors to provide free restorative surgical care to women suffering incontinence due to obstetric fistula. In addition to life-transforming surgery, the DFC offers a 3-month vocational training program. Just over half of the women who are admitted to the DFC, enroll to learn new marketable skills as their bodies heal and grow stronger after surgery.
As well as providing free surgical repair, the DFC also support the prevention, recruitment and follow-up aspect of the program that educates communities about the causes of fistula, identifies women in need of surgical care and visits former patients.
Below, you can read the story of one patient at the DFC who was affected by an obstetric fistula as a result of the delivery of her first child.
Amina*, now 21, married her husband when she was 18-years-old. Soon after their wedding, Amina fell pregnant and her parents and husband were overjoyed to hear that she was expecting.
One morning, she went into labour. After 48 hours in labour at home, Amina was brought to the health dispensary close to her village. Amina explained, “There I was greeted by a midwife who, after examining me, put me on observation. After two more days the delivery had not occurred and my condition began to become difficult. I could not even stand up anymore from weakness!”
The midwife examined Amina again and referred her to the district hospital, there she waited five more days. Doctors at the district hospital then evacuated her to the regional hospital. At the regional hospital, now nine days after Amina first went into labour, the decision was made to perform a caesarian section. Sadly, her baby boy was not alive when he was delivered.
Amina stayed in the regional hospital for seven days but began to leak urine on the second day after the delivery. The day Amina was discharged from the hospital, the nurses removed her catheter and urine continued to flow uncontrollably. She said, “Despite this difficulty, I was discharged without any explanation of the leaking, nor any plans to see me again about the condition.”
“Before having an obstetric fistula myself,” Amina said, “I had never heard of anyone with this condition. My parents were very sad to see the way that I leaked urine involuntarily. My husband left me because of the leaking urine. I lived a miserable life!”
Amina lived in this condition for 12 months before receiving treatment. One day, a woman came to her house to tell Amina’s parents that there was a place called Danja Center that treated obstetric fistula. Amina said, “I was seen in the clinic soon after coming to the DFC. Five weeks later I had surgery for the fistula and was dry afterwards. There was no more leaking!”
Rather than leaving the center after her surgery, Amina stayed on to be part of the training program offered there and learnt new skills in handiwork. She said, “I learned a skill that I never saw anyone else do in my village. I hope to make a living by making embroidered objects or knitting.”
Amina uses her experience of living with an obstetric fistula to help other women, telling them about the DFC and the free care available to them. Amina also shares her experience to educate parents about the dangers of leaving their daughters to continue in prolonged labour and the risk of birth-related fistula.
Reflecting on her time with the DFC, Amina said, “What has really touched me is the love that has been shown to me by the staff. I feel at home at the center, and at this moment I am continuing with my training. In this way, the day that I leave the Danja Fistula Center I will return with two successful outcomes: cure from fistula and a skill that will be useful all my life.”
*Name changed to protect identity and representative image used.
Photo by Joshua Hanson
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