Meet Celestine

In obstructed labor with her sixth child, Celestine was rushed to her local health facility, only to be told she couldn’t have emergency surgery until her family made a down payment. Anxious and afraid, she waited for her husband to return with the money needed.

Celestine's Story

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.

About Kenya

  • 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)
Read More

We’re Making a Difference in Kenya

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • Saran

    Guinea

    After developing a fistula with the birth of her fourth child, Saran received free fistula surgery at our partner site Jean Paul II Hospital in Conakry, Guinea.

  • Esther

    Kenya

    Esther gave birth to her second child, Manuel, less than one year ago. She was encouraged to stay at home to deliver the baby, where she labored for three days with the help of a traditional birth attendant. Fortunately, she gave birth to a lively baby boy. However, after four days she noticed she was leaking urine and was unable to control it.

  • Levine

    Madagascar

    Levine never imagined that appendicitis surgery would result in an injury that could devastate her life.

  • Towanda

    Zimbabwe

    Towanda is 20 years old and from a rural area just outside of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city. Four years ago at the age of 16, she became pregnant. When the time came to deliver, there were a lot of complications.

  • Selina

    Kenya

    Selina, a traditional birth attendant from remote West Pokot, Kenya, helped eight women from her village get life-changing fistula surgery. And she’s not done yet.

  • Bategna

    Madagascar

    Bategna is from the village of Marerano, 300km from the nearest city, Morondava. As a girl, she attended primary school, but only for a short time. She lived a happy life, until she developed obstetric fistula.

  • Naresia Kenya

    Naresia

    Kenya

    Naresia is a Masai girl from a rural village in Kenya. Only five months ago, at the age of 14, Naresia gave birth to a baby. After a prolonged and difficult labor, she awoke to find her bed soaked with urine. The doctors informed her that the delivery process had left her with an obstetric fistula and she was now incontinent.

  • Harka Maya

    Nepal

    A mother of two, Harka Maya lives in Sindhuli, Nepal, roughly 80 miles (129 km) from Kathmandu. She developed a fistula last summer, while in labor with her third child. Being from a poor farming family, it was customary for her to deliver at home.

  • Pastor Raphael

    Kenya

    The fact that he is blind has never slowed him down, and at 45 years, Pastor Raphael is feeling young and energetic. As a child, Pastor Raphael was unable to finish school as he had tend to the family’s cattle, but he always felt a calling to become a pastor and to serve his community.

  • Brenda

    Brenda

    Kenya

    Thanks to a newly opened fistula hospital close to her home in Kisii, Kenya, 17-year-old Brenda was able to get treatment after six months. Now that she is healed, she has dreams of returning to school to become a nurse.

  • Aneni

    Zimbabwe

    Before finding treatment through Fistula Foundation, Aneni* suffered with a terrible fistula for 35 years.

  • Sodreine

    Madagascar

    Sodreine is from Iabomora Village, about 56km from Vangaindrano in Madagascar. She gave birth to her first child at the age of 17, but her labor did not progress as planned. As a result, she developed obstetric fistula.

  • Mildred

    Kenya

    Mildred developed fistula after prolonged, obstructed labor with her second child. She endured two difficult months of life with fistula before receiving treatment through our Action on Fistula program.

  • Seline

    Kenya

    Seline lives in a small village in the remote region of West Pokot, Kenya. She did not go to school and married young, as is tradition in this pastoralist community. She went into labor with her fourth child about three years ago, preferring to give birth at home with a traditional birth attendant from her village. Only 18% of women give birth in a health center in this region of Kenya, far below the national average of 44%

  • Sujata

    Nepal

    Sujata lives in Bajura, a very poor and remote mountain district in western Nepal. She lives with her husband, whom she married when she was 16 years old, and his family in a small house shared by 12 people. One year after their wedding, Sujata was looking forward to the birth of her first child. There was no health facility nearby, so when Sujata’s labor entered its eighth day, the family called on the local birth attendant.

  • Ndatsaha

    Madagascar

    Ndatsaha developed fistula when she went in to labor with her third child. She sought the services of a traditional birth attendant, as she had with her previous pregnancies, and as most women did in her community. But this time, things were different. The baby did not come, and Ndatsaha labored in excruciating pain for three days.

  • Blandine

    Madagascar

    Blandine was so happy to be free of her fistula, that "she honestly couldn't stop laughing, which was so heartwarming!"