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

  • 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.

  • Fanny

    Zambia

    Fanny became pregnant by her boyfriend at 15. She was in labor for over 3 days, seeking medical care. Her family had to row a canoe for 6 hours to reach a hospital before Fanny finally delivered her baby through cesarean section. Fanny developed an obstetric fistula due to this ordeal, but her mother Dorcas was determined to find help for her daughter so that she could live a good life.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Mwajuma

    Kenya

    Mwajuma developed a fistula while in labor with her seventh child. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before she met Mariam, who helped her get free treatment through our Action on Fistula program in Kenya. With her health restored, Mwajuma now has plans to start a new business so she can help support her family.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Gul-Afghanistan

    Gul

    Afghanistan

    Gul lives in Afghanistan. At 13 years old, her father arranged for her to marry an older man who had another wife, and after one year of marriage, Gul became pregnant. When she went into labor, it lasted for two days. There were no clinics or doctors where she lived and Gul's husband became worried. He took her to her father's house, where Gul's father killed a sheep and placed the sheepskin on her as part of a traditional treatment used in her area. After three days of wearing the sheepskin, Gul delivered a stillborn baby.

  • Fistula Foundation - Khadija

    Khadijah

    Chad

    Khadijah lived with fistula for 18 years, and it isolated her from everything and everyone around her. Originally from Chad's northern region of Bar Elgazel, she was married when she was only 14 years old. Her first pregnancy came three years afterwards and, not knowing the importance of seeking health care or treatment, she never received any prenatal care.

  • Justine

    Uganda

    Justine is 37 years old and lives in Bumasiki , a small village in Bugiri District in Uganda. When her labor pains began, she prepared to go to the hospital but didn’t have enough money to get there. She arrived 20 hours later after gathering sufficient funds from friends and neighbors; but by then, she had developed an obstetric fistula.

  • Soazara

    Madagascar

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

  • 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.

  • Reeta

    Nepal

    Reeta arrived at International Nepal Foundation's fistula clinic with her younger son, Tej. They live in Kanchenpur, a 9 hour journey by bus from Surkhet. Reeta developed an obstetric fistula after her youngest son’s birth 33 years ago. She had delivered two sons previously at home without difficulty, but the third labor was more complicated.

  • Mary

    Kenya

    Mary, from rural West Pokot, Kenya, received free fistula repair surgery in 2015 after being referred for treatment by a community health worker. With a bright future ahead, she wishes to become a fistula ambassador herself.

  • Rose

    Madagascar

    Rose developed obstetric fistula at the age of 16, during her first delivery. Life became very difficult for her, in a number of ways. She is not married, and her father is dead. Survival became a challenge.

  • Brenda

    Brenda

    Kenya

    Thanks to a newly opened fistula hospital close to her home in Kisii, Kenya, 17-year-old Brenda was able to get treatment after six months. Now that she is healed, she has dreams of returning to school to become a nurse.

  • Fistula Foundation - Kamala

    Kamala

    Nepal

    Kamala is a 47 year old mother of four and from a very remote area of western Nepal known as Dailekh. She lived with fistula for eight years, but thankfully is one of few patients who had the support of her husband the entire time.