U.S. News & World Report featured this article from our longtime friend and partner, Dr. Hillary Mabeya. Writing in recognition of International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, he tells the story of his journey— from young medical resident to renowned fistula surgeon and leader. May 23 is International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, and I’m…
“I stood at the farthest end of the field as I listened to a politician selling his manifesto at a shopping center in our village. As he continued with his agenda of convincing the members of the public to vote for him, at one point, he started calling on any woman with the leakage of stool or urine to come forth. I hesitated for a while, but when I saw two women coming out, I courageously decided to join them. That same day, we were brought here to receive surgical treatment. It’s true that “mourning may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” My morning has come! My morning has come!”
-Janet, pictured above, describes her path to the Kisii Gynocare Fistula Center
Janet is from Narok, a Maasai community in western Kenya. She is the mother of four healthy children, each delivered with the help of her mother-in-law, who happens to be known as the finest traditional birth attendant in the village. When Janet became pregnant with her fifth baby, her pregnancy progressed normally, until she went in to labor. She labored with the help of her mother-in-law for two days before it became evident to all that Janet needed professional medical attention.
“I almost died in the hands of my mother-in-law,” Janet recounted. But she was rushed to the hospital where her life was saved. Her baby did not survive. After one week, Janet realized that she had begun to leak urine. Her prolonged obstructed labor had resulted in an obstetric fistula.
Day after day, Janet kept hoping her problem would go away, but days turned into weeks, then months. Eventually 14 years had passed since she had developed fistula.
“I was always on my own. I avoided social places. Life became even worse when my husband died, because I struggled a lot to make ends meet. On several occasions, I was denied menial work because of my bad odor. I will never forget the time a young woman chased me from her compound, shouting at me: go away, you stinking woman! Sadness overflowed my heart and I wondered why death chose to take a healthy man like my husband instead of me, since I was already half dead and rotten,” Janet said.
Janet can’t explain how she found herself at the political rally that day, since she usually avoids being in crowded public places. She attributes it to divine intervention. Today, at the age of 40, she is healed and finally free of her fistula.
“I have never voted,” said Janet, “But now since I am clean and I can freely mingle with other people, I can’t wait to vote for my preferred candidates after not being able to vote in the last four elections. And you can be sure, the candidate who sent me for treatment has my vote.”
- 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)