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Meet Padma

“I have a second life. I am so thankful to Dr. Shirley, and so thankful to my husband who stood by me.”

Padma's Story

“My mother gave me a second life,and so now, I just have to dance!” Padma Thapa, age 65, began to dance and twirl, laughing as she threw her arms around Dr. Shirley Heywood, her “mother,” who gave her a second chance at life after repairing her obstetric fistula.
Padma is a resilient Nepalese woman who lived with fistula for forty years. She developed the injury after giving birth at home—in the 1970s, there simply were no rural healthcare services to help her. Padma’s husband, Sahabir, stayed with her even though they were never able to have children—a deeply stigmatizing situation in their rural society.

Padma successfully hid the injury for four decades, and never sought help. In 2014, she was invited to an overnight women’s meeting at her church. She refused, fearing that her friends would discover her secret. Finally, Padma confessed to a community health worker who had been trained by International Nepal Fellowship, Fistula Foundation’s partner in Nepal. The health worker recognized her condition, and referred her to the hospital for treatment.

Padma traveled a long distance for her first surgery, but the procedure failed. She was shattered, and nearly gave up hope. After four more years of incontinence, Padma decided to try again. In January 2018, Dr. Shirley performed her second fistula repair surgery—and this time, Padma was completely healed!

“I am so happy, happy, happy! And I am very fine now,” Padma said, clapping and hugging Dr. Shirley. “I have a second life. I am so thankful to Dr. Shirley, and so thankful to my husband who stood by me.”

About Nepal

  • Population: 29,033,914
  • Average Births per Woman: 2.18
  • Female Literacy: 53.1%
  • Population Living in Poverty: 25.2% (less than $1.25/day)
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Read Another Woman’s Story

  • 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.

  • Bernard

    Kenya

    Bernard Owino is one of six county mobilizers with Disciples of Mercy (DOM), an organization that runs a fistula outreach program in Kisumu. Before joining DOM, he worked with orphans and other vulnerable populations in the region for four years as a social worker.

  • Selina

    Kenya

    Selina, a traditional birth attendant from remote West Pokot, Kenya, helped eight women from her village get life-changing fistula surgery. And she’s not done yet.

  • 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.

  • Christiana

    Liberia

    Pregnant at 16, Christiana suffered with fistula for several years before her successful treatment at our partner hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. Now, with the new skills she is learning through a patient rehabilitation program, she hopes to help support her family.

  • Mildred

    Kenya

    Mildred developed fistula after prolonged, obstructed labor with her second child. She endured two difficult months of life with fistula before receiving treatment through our Action on Fistula program.

  • Romenisoa

    Madagascar

    Today, Romenisoa is happy because her free surgery was successful, and she is no longer leaking. She is happy and grateful that now she can do her farming in peace, free from fistula.

  • Sokhina

    Bangladesh

    Sokhina endured four days of excruciating labor before delivering a stillborn baby. But her nightmare was just beginning: soon after she began to leak urine and learned that she had an obstetric fistula. She suffered with this injury for eight years before learning that help was available.

  • Lida

    Afghanistan

    Lida gave birth to her first and only child 12 years ago. Sadly, the baby died shortly after it was born. Not only that, but Lida developed a fistula during the difficult delivery and started leaking urine constantly from that day.

  • Alradya-Sudan

    Alradya

    Sudan

    Alradya is 17 years old and lives in northern Sudan. When she was 15, she was married to her cousin, a farmer. She became pregnant and when she went into labor, had only her mother at her side. She endured excruciating labor for two days, but there was still no sign of the baby, which she could no longer feel moving. A traditional birth attendant was summoned to examine Alradya, who ordered that she be sent to the nearest hospital.

  • Elvanah

    Madagascar

    Elvanah gave birth to her first child at the age of 17. Her labor became obstructed, and ultimately was delivered via C-section. Her prolonged obstructed labor had resulted in an obstetric fistula.

  • Helen

    Kenya

    Helen went into labor with her second child about four years ago. She gave birth in her home, where she labored for many hours, completely alone without anyone present to assist her. Her baby was stillborn and she began leaking urine immediately.

  • 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.

  • Felistas

    Kenya

    Felistas developed fistula at the age of 17, after delivering a stillborn baby via Cesarian section. Her husband left her because he could not stand her condition. She suffered alone until learning one day that treatment was available through the Action on Fistula program.

  • 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.

  • Landy

    Madagascar

    Landy became pregnant at 14 years old. When it came time to deliver, she labored at home as most women do in her village. But after a day of excruciating pain, her labor did not progress and her family took her to the village hospital. The baby did not survive.

  • Tahinomenjanahary

    Madagascar

    Tahinomenjanahary went in to labor at the age of 17. Her labor was excruciating, but she did not begin the journey to the nearest hospital until she had been in labor for more than a day. In total, she labored for three days. The baby did not survive.

  • 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.