Dr. Charlotte Kaliti is a force to be reckoned with. She is the first female surgeon to complete Fistula Foundation’s rigorous training program in Kenya—and she’s just getting started. Dr. Kaliti commands the room as she sits at the head of a conference table in Nairobi. She looks impeccable—even though she entered only moments before…
“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!”
- 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)