As a trained midwife, Barnabus Mulenga acts as a mentor and counselor to pregnant women, helping them with family planning and deliveries. What sets Barnabus apart from other midwifes, however, is that he’s also a fistula nurse, acting as a mentor to other nurses about the best ways to treat fistula patients. “I love this…
Fanny bounced Kasongo, her eight month old baby, on her lap, as she told the story of his delivery.
Fanny became pregnant by her boyfriend when she was 15 years old. She lives on Chisenga Island in Zambia’s rural Nchelenge District, far away from any healthcare facility. Fanny called a traditional village birth attendant at the first sign of labor pain, but was advised to wait. 24 hours later, she found her way to a health center, but the only person staffing the facility was a cleaner who didn’t have a professional medical background. Another 48 hours elapsed, and finally it was decided that she should be referred to a higher-level facility. The family could not afford to hire a boat to take Fanny across to the mainland, so they had to settle for a dug-out canoe, which they rowed diligently for a full six hours before reaching the other side. The waiting ambulance rushed Fanny to the hospital where, thankfully, she was able to deliver a live baby through cesarean section.
Fanny noticed her hospital bed was wet; every time it was changed, it would immediately become soiled again with urine. The hospital didn’t know how to manage the condition, and eventually discharged her. Over the next few months, she sought out help at three more health centers to no avail.
Throughout this ordeal, Fanny’s mother Dorcas was a passionate advocate for her daughter, refusing to believe that there wasn’t any help for her. She wanted her daughter to live a good life, and she knew with suffering like this, her chances were not strong.
Finally, Fanny’s uncle heard on the local radio about a condition called obstetric fistula, and thought about his suffering niece. Neither the uncle nor Fanny’s family had a phone, so they approached the village headman to seek his help. With the support of the village headman, they were able to use the phone and call the hotline number that was shared through the radio program. No more than one month later, Fanny was on her way to our partner Mansa General Hospital for fistula repair surgery.
Back at home with her child, Fanny hasn’t married her boyfriend. She doesn’t want to rush into any relationships, she values her life, and wants to have the time to grow up a bit. Fanny wants to talk to others about her own experience and support women with fistula in seeking help. She says that you have to go with “one heart”—meaning go without doubt—“and you will be OK when you come back.”
Dorcas is overjoyed and grateful to Fistula Foundation for the health and smile that have returned to her 16-year old daughter.
- Population: 15,510,711
- Average Births per Woman: 5.67
- Female Literacy: 56%
- Population Living in Poverty: 60.5% (less than $1.25/day)