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Meet Hellen

Hellen's Story

“When I got pregnant with my third baby, a close neighbor died in our local health facility during childbirth. The death instilled so much fear that I vowed that I was never going to deliver in a facility again, even though I had delivered my first two babies through Cesarean section.”

At the age of 20, Hellen became pregnant with her third child. She enjoyed a normal life in her village of Kaptumo. She had two healthy children and a happy marriage with her husband.

When she went in to labor with her third child, her husband tried to convince her to reconsider her decision not to deliver in a health facility, but, as she put it: “nobody and nothing” would change her decision to deliver at home. “I went in to labor, but as days went by, I got scared. After three days of struggling to deliver my baby, it was evident I needed professional help. I finally delivered through Cesarean section to a stillborn child,” she said. She regretted making what she called such a “selfish” decision that ended up costing the life of her baby, and nearly her own. She is grateful that her husband intervened.

Not long after her C-section, Hellen realized that she could no longer control her urine. She had developed an obstetric fistula as a result of her prolonged unrelieved obstructed labor. Today, she is 48; for the last 28 years, she has lived with this condition.

“It’s been difficult, painful and even hard to keep my job with my condition of leaking urine. On several occasions, I have been embarrassed before my colleagues. Every day, for 28 years of leaking urine, it has been like a punishment to be alive. I have suffered, but in silence. Only my husband knows that sometimes I would break down and shed tears like a baby,” Hellen shared.

“It had been a while since I went to church, but one particular Sunday morning in July, I woke up with the deep desire to seek spiritual nourishment. Little did I know that it was the beginning of my journey to recovery! I prepared and left for church, and as the service was just about to end, there stood a girl in the front of the church courageously sharing how she lived with fistula for three years. That’s when it dawned to me that my condition was treatable!

“I approached her later, and she directed me to the Gynocare Women’s & Fistula Hospital, where she had been treated. That Sunday will always remain memorable. I can’t believe it that am going for the reconstructive surgery today!”

On this day, after 28 years of suffering in silence, Hellen shared with our team that she would finally receive the surgery that could change her life forever. Her surgery would be provided for free, through Fistula Foundation’s Action on Fistula program.

“Kindly reassure me that this is not a dream but reality,” Hellen exclaimed, tears of joy running down her cheeks. “I am finally going to receive treatment, which will restore my dignity as a woman. The girl who shared at our church was an angel! She is my heroine!”

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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We’re Making a Difference in Kenya

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • Maho

    Madagascar

    At 20 years old, Maho is mother to two healthy children. In June 2016, when giving birth to her third child, her labor went quite differently. She endured an excruciating labor that lasted three days and resulted in a C-section. Her child did not survive, and Maho had begun to leak urine.

  • Abiar

    Kenya

    In her 23 years, Abiar has seen and experienced more sadness than most do in a lifetime. Losing her entire family to civil war in South Sudan in 2011, she married as a way to protect her own life. But soon the worst happened: with no access to health care, food or shelter, she became pregnant.

  • 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.

  • Yvonne

    Zambia

    After suffering from obstetric fistula for 17 years, Yvonne boarded a bus that would take her to treatment. She was hopeful that on her return ride, she would be traveling in a dry dress for the first time in nearly two decades.

  • 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.

  • Celestine

    Kenya

    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.

  • 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.

  • Francine

    Madagascar

    She became pregnant with her first child around age 17. Things did not go as planned, and Francine found herself in labor for three days. Finally, she was taken to a hospital where her baby was delivered via C-section. As a result of her prolonged obstructed labor, Francine had developed an obstetric fistula.

  • Prisca

    Zambia

    Prisca was diagnosed with multiple fistulas, and feared she would have to live with the condition forever. Then, a radio program changed her life.

  • 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.

  • Jane

    Kenya

    Conducting patient outreach in rural western Kenya, Jane faces a number of challenges—including threats to her life—as she travels in search of women suffering with fistula. But knowing there are many women who are enjoying life once again thanks to her efforts gives great meaning to her work.

  • Rasoanirina

    Madagascar

    Rasoanirina was 18 when she went into labor with her first child. But her labor did not go as planned: it lasted for three excruciating days before the baby was delivered stillborn, via C-section on July 2, 2015. Her complicated labor left her with more than the pain of losing a child; it also left her with obstetric fistula.

  • 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.

  • Sofia - WAHA

    Sofia

    Liberia

    At 16, Sofia lost her baby boy in childbirth and developed a fistula, prompting her husband to leave her. Unaware what her condition was called or that treatment was possible, she became almost completely isolated over the next three years, giving up hope of ever being healed. A radio ad changed her life.

  • Kabuli, from Afghanistan (photo credit: CURE International)

    Kabuli

    Afghanistan

    Kabuli, from Afghanistan, is the third of four wives. When she developed a fistula after enduring obstructed labor without any emergency medical care, her husband forced her into isolation within his home. Living in shame, Kabuli thought she would be miserable for the rest of her life.

  • Marizany

    Madagascar

    At the age of 18, Marizany and her husband looked forward to the arrival of their first child. But labor did not go as planned, and Marizany was left with an obstetric fistula, leaking urine uncontrollably. She suffered from fistula for 28 years.

  • Hadija

    Guinea

    By age 27, Hadija had already given birth to four children. Sadly, only two of her children survived. Making things worse, her last pregnancy left Hadija with an obstetric fistula.

  • 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.