Dr. Charlotte Kaliti is a force to be reckoned with. She is the first female surgeon to complete Fistula Foundation’s rigorous training program in Kenya—and she’s just getting started. Dr. Kaliti commands the room as she sits at the head of a conference table in Nairobi. She looks impeccable—even though she entered only moments before…
Celestine, 35, is from Mount Elgon, in western Kenya. She is a mother of five beautiful girls and one boy, her youngest. Her son was conceived after her husband and family pressured her to have another child. Celestine explains, “Since in my community you are not considered to have children if you don’t have a male child, with much pressure from my husband and family I decided to secure my place in that marriage by looking for a male child.”
When she became pregnant, she says, “I was very anxious to know the sex of the baby, and when that time came, I was so much relieved to know that finally I was going to have an heir of my husband’s inheritance.”
Her pregnancy progressed normally, without any complications. One evening, as she was milking the family’s cow, her water broke. She called her favorite traditional birth attendant, just as she had done for the births of her five daughters. The attendant came as soon as she could, but after 30 minutes of trying to deliver the baby, she asked Celestine to prepare because they needed to seek professional help. “I was so scared,” Celestine says. She feared for the life of her baby, the long-awaited heir.
Despite difficult terrain, they managed to reach the health facility in a short time. But after they arrived, Celestine was told she couldn’t be admitted until she paid the admission fee and a down payment on the operating theatre’s fee, which she didn’t have. “I couldn’t believe that I could not be attended to until I found the money needed,” she says. “Nobody knew what the baby I was carrying meant to us as a family, they didn’t care whether he died or lived, all they cared about was money!”
Her husband went home and managed to sell a cow and return in time with the money. Celestine recalls that by the time she was finally admitted, the baby’s arm had already emerged. Thankfully, she was able to deliver her son safely through a cesarean section.
However, three days after delivery, her catheter was removed and Celestine realized she could no longer hold her urine. “I was devastated,” she says, “but my husband became my source of strength and he kept on assuring me that everything will be OK.” After she returned home, her husband took it upon himself to find treatment for her.
“One day, my husband came back home earlier than his usual time and in very high spirits,” she says. After two years of searching, he had found someone who could help with her condition. They would go to Gynocare Fistula Center, in Eldoret, the very next morning. Celestine was so excited that the night felt longer.
Today, she is thankful for the fistula treatment that ended her two years of misery. “I am so grateful to have another chance to live a life of dignity and honor as a woman,” she says.
- Population: 45,010,056
- Average Births per Woman: 3.54
- Female Literacy: 84.2%
- Population Living in Poverty: 43.4% (less than $1.25/day)