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)
Read More

We’re Making a Difference in Kenya

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • Mary A.

    Kenya

    Mary waited her whole life to have a child. At the age of 47 she finally became pregnant. But her labor was difficult, and her child did not survive. She developed fistula as a result. She was ostracized by her family and shunned by the entire community, until finally, at the age of 73, she finally accessed a free surgery that would change the rest of her life, and remind her what it felt like to feel "human" again.

  • Josephine-Congo

    Josephine

    Democratic Republic of the Congo

    Josephine is from the northwestern corner of the Democratic Republic of Congo. 34 years old, she is the mother of two healthy boys, ages 11 and 9, the only surviving children from her four pregnancies.

  • 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.

  • Evelyn

    Kenya

    “It was so painful to leave the hospital with the few clothes I had bought for my baby. It was painful to walk out of the gates empty handed [without a baby] and to worsen the matter, with the leaking of urine."

  • Jahanara

    Bangladesh

    Jahanara is just 23 years old. She was in labor for a full day at home before going to a hospital for an emergency C-section. By then, unfortunately, the damage had already been done.

  • 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.

  • Vinesy

    Madagascar

    Vinesy had surgery in April 2013 for appendicitis, but something went wrong and she became incontinent as a result. She had developed an iatrogenic fistula as a result of the procedure and had begun to leak urine uncontrollably.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Goni-Ethiopia

    Goni

    Ethiopia

    Goni is fifteen years old and lives in a small village in the hills of northeastern Ethiopia. She married and became pregnant. During labor she developed a fistula; her husband abandoned her after the injury became apparent.

  • Janet

    Kenya

    Janet can't explain how she ended up at the political rally that day, but it changed her life forever.

  • Serafina

    Angola

    Serafina is 18 years old and from the Mukubal tribe in southwestern Angola. Married off at a young age and one of several wives, Serafina became pregnant when she was 14. She is very small-boned and was suffering from malnutrition when she came to the hospital, as food is often scarce in that part of the country. As a result of that and other factors, her delivery did not go well.

  • Mayeye

    Democratic Republic of Congo

    In the year 2000, Mayeye was pregnant with her fourth child. Not long after giving birth, she felt intense pain in her abdomen and began leaking urine. She had developed obstetric fistula. Despite her injury, Mayeye continued working on her family’s small farm. She had no choice but to work through the pain, because her family was depending on her.

  • Ravony

    Madagascar

    For the last eight years, Ravony has suffered with obstetric fistula, which caused her to leak urine uncontrollably. Her fistula was the result of a five day labor that ended in the death of her child.

  • Annet Jane

    Annet Jane

    Uganda

    Pregnant at 14, Annet Jane suffered with a fistula for 23 years before receiving treatment. Now, she has hope for the future.

  • 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.

  • Aidah

    Nigeria

    72 year old Aidah lived with obstetric fistula for an astounding 41 years before accessing treatment at Evangel Vesico-Vaginal Fistula Center in Jos. Her family stuck by her side the entire time, and recounted to hospital staff how fistula severely limited her (and their) opportunities and success in life.

  • Margaret and Rose

    Kenya

    At the age of 14, Margaret was raped while fetching water at the local stream. She became pregnant as a result, and endured a difficult labor, which resulted in a stillborn baby and an obstetric fistula. An orphan, Margaret had nowhere to go, and nobody to help her through this terrible tragedy – except her sister, Rose.