Meet Felistas

Felistas developed fistula at the age of 17, after delivering a stillborn baby via Cesarian section. Her husband left her because he could not stand her condition. She suffered alone until learning one day that treatment was available through the Action on Fistula program.

Felistas's Story

Felistas is 17 years old and from the town of Bumala, in Kenya. She was married at the age of 16 after becoming pregnant. She carried her pregnancy without any difficulties. She went into labour at midnight and, due to the lack of transport at this time of the night, she had to endure the pain until dawn. She was then rushed to the nearest healthcare facility and continued to labor for 12 more hours. At this juncture they realized that she needed to referred to another facility that could deliver her baby through an emergency Cesarean section. Sadly, she delivered a stillborn baby boy.

She started leaking urine after 2 days post operatively. At the beginning she thought perhaps this was normal. This had been her first pregnancy, so she thought that perhaps this was part of the delivery process. But after some days she realized that something had gone wrong. She talked to her nurses about it, but they incorrectly assured her that with time, the fistula would close up. While still at that facility, she developed other complications and was then referred to a provincial hospital level for surgery on these other issues.

She lived with fistula for two and a half  months, which has been the most painful part of her life. In the beginning, her husband was very understanding and supportive. But, after receiving bad counsel from friends, his attitude towards her changed drastically. He told her that he could not stand the habit of sleeping on a wet bed every night. Felistas couldn’t go back to her parents’ home because she had left both her family and school for this man. Then, one day her husband left the home and never came back. Since that day, she had not known his whereabouts.

One unforgettable day, Felistas had gone to a health facility for a catheter change, and learned about fistula treatment provided by Gynocare, a partner in the Action on Fistula program. She couldn’t believe that she could receive free surgery through this program, and couldn’t believe that she wouldn’t have to wait for treatment – especially after hearing from her fellow patients how long many of them had lived with fistula. Then: she heard from her husband. He had learned that she was at Gynocare for corrective surgery. Now that her fistula has been repaired, she is looking forward to reuniting with her husband and living a life of dignity.

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)
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Read Another Woman’s Story

  • Rasoanirina

    Madagascar

    Extremely shy, and embarrassed by her condition, Rasoanirina stopped going to school.

  • Djinto

    Democratic Republic of Congo

    Djinto tried to do everything right. She attended regular prenatal sessions to prepare for the birth of her child. Her pregnancy progressed normally, though she had been warned that the child she carried was too large for Djinto’s young 17 year old body to handle.

  • Meranesoa

    Madagascar

    Meranesoa’s husband accompanied her to the hospital for her fistula surgery, and said he had every intention of helping, supporting and standing by her side while she received and recovered from treatment.

  • Betty

    Kenya

    Betty developed fistula during her first pregnancy, after laboring at home for seven days. Her baby did not survive. Today, she is healthy once again thanks to free surgery provided through the Action on Fistula program.

  • Halima, from Somalia (photo credit: WAHA)

    Halima

    Somalia

    Halima is yet another brave fistula survivor from Somalia. “When I went to labour, the pain got stronger and stronger and lasted on and on. Something was not right. It took two days to convince my husband to bring me to a health facility. The doctors that saw me decided to immediately carry out a cesarean section. But they had no anesthesia. The pain was unbearable, and when I screamed they started beating me. My baby could not be saved and I developed what I later learned was an obstetric fistula. My husband left me because he could not stand the smell caused by my injury.”

  • Rahila

    Guinea

    Rahila never had the opportunity to attend school; instead, she sells donuts in the market and farms for a living. She married at age 14 and became pregnant soon thereafter. Unfortunately, Rahila developed obstetric fistula during delivery and was left leaking urine and feces.

  • Soazara

    Madagascar

    Soazara's husband abandoned her, because he could not stand her smell. Life became almost unbearable for her.

  • Landy

    Madagascar

    Landy became pregnant at 14 years old. When it came time to deliver, she labored at home as most women do in her village. But after a day of excruciating pain, her labor did not progress and her family took her to the village hospital. The baby did not survive.

  • Felana

    Madagascar

    At the tender age of 15, Felana became pregnant. She suffered a prolonged obstructed labor, and by the time her stillborn baby was delivered, she had developed obstetric fistula.

  • Fina

    Tanzania

    Sixteen years ago, a childbirth injury turned Fina’s life upside down. But after losing everything—her health, her husband, even her own family—she was determined to take her future into her own hands.

  • Domitila

    Domitila

    Angola

    In 2012 Domitila became pregnant with her 9th baby. During her final trimester, she had a severe episode of bleeding. Her family realized this indicated the baby had died, but hoped she would still be able to push it out on her own at home. When nothing happened, they finally took her to the hospital where a hysterectomy was done. After this, she no longer was able to control her urine - she had developed a fistula.

  • Beatrice-Kenya

    Beatrice

    Kenya

    Beatrice is 17 she lives in Western Kenya. Many women with fistula suffer for years or decades before they are able to access surgical treatment. Fortunately for Beatrice, who was 16 when she developed fistula, it was less than a month before she received treatment at the Nyanza Provincial General Hospital in Kisumu, Kenya. Beatrice developed fistula after laboring at home for two days in the presence of a traditional birth attendant.

  • Vitasoa

    Madagascar

    Vitasoa is from the village of Manja, approximately 250km from the nearest city, Morondava. She developed fistula during the birth of her first child.

  • Rahima

    Bangladesh

    When Rahima was just 13 she was married to save her family money on living costs. She soon became pregnant and suffered through prolonged, obstructed labor that left her incontinent. She lived with obstetric fistula for 12 years before finally finding help through our partners at HOPE Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh.

  • Fistula Foundation - Binta

    Binta

    Guinea

    Binta is 35 years old and from Fidi, a landlocked village in northwestern Guinea. At 14 years old she was forced to marry a much older man, and soon became pregnant. After five days of painful labor, she lost her baby. A few days later, she realized that she was not able to control her urine. The difficult labor had left her with an obstetric fistula.

  • Salha

    Tanzania

    Salha had a complicated and prolonged labor before she was finally brought to a hospital in the Mtwara region of Tanzania. There she received an emergency C-section section, but it was too late. Tragically, Salha’s baby had already died. A few days later, Salha realized she was leaking urine.

  • Fistula Foundation - Maria

    Maria

    Zimbabwe

    Maria is 42 years old. She is HIV-positive and currently on antiretroviral therapy. Maria doesn’t have a permanent place to live – she cannot work because of her incontinence, and has no real income to live on. She survives through the ongoing support of her relatives and friends.

  • Umuhoza

    Rwanda

    Umuhoza arrived at the hospital with two massive fistulas and could barely walk. She was so traumatized by her labor that she could not remember any details. Today she is healed, but the road to recovery has been long and difficult.