By Kate Grant
CEO, Fistula Foundation
Days after delivering a stillborn child, Umuhoza had grown terribly ill, She was running a fever, barely able to walk and incontinent. Her mother grew increasingly concerned and knew she had to get Umuhoza to a hospital, even though it was hours from their rural village in northwest Rwanda.
By the time they arrived at the University Central Hospital of Kigali (CHUK) last June, Umuhoza was in bad shape. Her delivery had been so traumatizing that she could not remember any details. Based on the extent of her injuries, her doctor, Lauri Romanzi, estimated that she had been in labor for at least five days. The extended delivery had given Umuhoza two large fistulas — holes in her vagina and rectum — that produced her incontinence.
After treating her infection and fever, Dr. Romanzi operated and successfully closed both of Umuhoza’s fistulas effectively stopping the leaking of urine and feces. Umuhoza is undergoing physical therapy and can now walk again, though slowly. She and her mother have now been at CHUK for over six months.
Dr. Lauri Romanzi is the current head of the fistula care team at CHUK. She is an expert pelvic floor surgeon whom Fistula Foundation has funded to provide surgeries in several countries in the past few years. Dr. Romanzi told us recently that Fistula Foundation’s support “literally saved Umuhoza’s life from disaster.” Romanzi is being modest. While funds from Fistula Foundation were important, it’s Romanzi’s surgical skills that transformed Umuhoza’s life.
To successfully treat a patient like Umuhoza, it takes more than the cost of the surgery; it also requires a well-equipped operating facility and a surgeon trained specifically to treat fistulas.