Wednesday, October 1

A Walk to Beautiful

I watched this documentary on Monday night. I sat for the most part sobbing, heaving from the chest with heartfelt and emapathic tears running down my face, mourning the loss of dignity for these women. The plight of women, particularly in Africa, is heartbreaking. My husband sat quietly next to me and held me throughout the film. I have known about this hospital in Addis Ababa for many years, probably as the hospital was founded by two Australian surgeons, a husband and wife team from Melbourne who went to Africa in the 50's and remained there, one Dr Hamlin died and his wife Catherine maintained their lifes work, establishing The Fistual Hospital and helping women with childbirth injuries. She has been nominated for Nobel Peace Prize and is testimony to persistence.

This hospital is for many women an end and a beginning. An end to the shame and rejection by their families and communities and lack of self worth and the beginning of the potential for a new life; a life free from pain and humiliation. Many women walk hundreds of miles to recieve help. Five mini hospitals are being built in remote communities to provide help to those who cannot make the journey to Addis Ababa. It is estimated that 200,000 women in Ethiopia alone suffer from fistula. The film "documents the plight of fistula sufferers and the inspiring journey of five women as they move from devastation and despair to restored health"

So, what is fistula? A fistula is a hole. An obstetric fistula of the kind that occurs in Ethiopia (and many other developing countries) is a hole between a woman's birth passage and one or more of her internal organs. This hole develops over many days of obstructed labor, when the pressure of the baby's head against the mother's pelvis cuts off blood supply to delicate tissues in the region. The dead tissue falls away and the woman is left with a hole between her vagina and her bladder (called a vesicovaginal fistula or VVF) and sometimes between her vagina and rectum (rectovaginal fistula, RVF). This hole results in permanent incontinence of urine and/or feces. A majority of women who develop fistulas are abandoned by their husbands and ostracized by their communities because of their inability to have children and their foul smell.

Can fistula be "cured"? Yes. An obstetric fistula can be closed with intravaginal surgery. If her surgery is performed by a skilled surgeon, a fistula patient has a good chance of returning to a normal life with full control of her bodily functions. The Fistula Hospital has a 93% success/cure rate.

How much does it cost to treat a fistula? At the Hamlin Fistula Hospitals, it costs US$450 to provide one woman with a fistula repair operation, high-quality postoperative care, a new dress, and bus fare home.

So thats what i did to honour these womens lives, and the telling of their story. I decided to 'love-a-sister' and paid for a fistula operation and have pledged to donate one more each year on an ongoing basis. i figure 37 dollars a month can be covered by my family, all of whom have had the priviledge and benefit of professional midwifery care. There are many ways available to support our sisters.
Tesfa Ineste
let’s give them hope


kouji said...

was good of you to help. may there be more people like you, willing to reach out and assist a total stranger.

Karin said...

I watched that too. Dr. Catherine Hamlin is someone I've admired for a long time.

The plight of these women is so multi-layered. Not only do they have to endure a horrible protracted labor, but the death of their child, followed by a birthing injury that makes them an outcast - all by the age of 17.

Our worlds are such a juxtaposition aren't they. This kind of injury is practically unknown in our developed world. Certainly not anything you'd ever find discussed in "What to expect when you are Expecting"

I so admire Catherine Hamlin. She is a savior.

Kel said...

oh yes. that's what i thought , very multi layered, women bear so much this way. So much. We are so priviledged here that it seems criminal not to share our 'fortunes'.