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)
Read More

We’re Making a Difference in Nepal

News
Nepal: One Year Later

In the days following the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake in April 2015, we were relieved to learn that all of our partners in Nepal were safe. But in the capital city, the Kathmandu Model Hospital had been damaged. Staff and patients were moved to the parking lot, for fear the entire facility might collapse. One of…

Kathmandu Model Hospital Success

News
Kathmandu Model Hospital Reconstruction a Success!

In the days following the devastating April earthquake in Nepal, you helped us raise an incredible $150,000 in 24 hours to repair extensive damage to an operating room at our partner site, Kathmandu Model Hospital. We are happy to report that thanks to so many of you, and to the support of Frank Richardson –…

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • Fistula Foundation - Elizabeth Atieno

    Sylvia

    Kenya

    Pregnant at the age of 13, Sylvia labored for two days before delivering a stillborn baby. She developed obstetric fistula, which led to two decades of shame and sadness. Then one day, she heard a radio announcement that would change her life forever.

  • Djinto

    Democratic Republic of Congo

    Djinto tried to do everything right. She attended regular prenatal sessions to prepare for the birth of her child. Her pregnancy progressed normally, though she had been warned that the child she carried was too large for Djinto’s young 17 year old body to handle.

  • 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.

  • Solange

    Madagascar

    Solange spent the majority of her teenage years suffering from obstetric fistula.

  • Vitasoa

    Madagascar

    Vitasoa is from the village of Manja, approximately 250km from the nearest city, Morondava. She developed fistula during the birth of her first child.

  • Harriet

    Uganda

    Harriet leaked stool for two years before understanding that she was living with a treatable injury. 

  • Pushpa

    Nepal

    Pushpa is approximately 50 years old and from a remote village in western Nepal. When she arrived at Kathmandu Model Hospital, she was leaking urine and feces uncontrollably and was severely depressed.

  • Francine

    Madagascar

    She became pregnant with her first child around age 17. Things did not go as planned, and Francine found herself in labor for three days. Finally, she was taken to a hospital where her baby was delivered via C-section. As a result of her prolonged obstructed labor, Francine had developed an obstetric fistula.

  • Rose

    Tanzania

    Rose developed a fistula after her very first pregnancy, and has been suffering because of it ever since. For over fifty years she struggled, never knowing that treatment was available....until recently when she met Sister Anna, the head nurse of Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center's fistula ward in Moshi.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Siana

    Siana

    Burundi

    Siana is 17 years old and from Katanga Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She developed an obstetric fistula after going through a difficult pregnancy at just 14.

  • Bilkis

    Bangladesh

    Bilkis is just 20 years old. She developed an obstetric fistula during the delivery of her first baby. Bilkis delivered under the guidance of a traditional birth attendant who encouraged her to continue her labor at home despite the fact that she had already been in labor for two days.

  • Alphonsia

    Tanzania

    Alphonsia’s heart-wrenching story began 27 years ago after her labor failed to progress properly.

  • Esther

    Kenya

    Esther gave birth to her second child, Manuel, less than one year ago. She was encouraged to stay at home to deliver the baby, where she labored for three days with the help of a traditional birth attendant. Fortunately, she gave birth to a lively baby boy. However, after four days she noticed she was leaking urine and was unable to control it.

  • 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.

  • Nura

    Chad

    Nura comes from Lai, a region in the south of Chad where she married at age 17. She first became pregnant at 20 and tried to give birth at home, aided only by her family. After 4 days of complicated labor, she was finally taken to the maternity center in Guidari, a nearby village.