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

  • Rasoanirina

    Madagascar

    Extremely shy, and embarrassed by her condition, Rasoanirina stopped going to school.

  • Wilmina

    Kenya

    “The last 22 years have been years of great pain, loss and very deep sorrows. I lost my baby, later lost my marriage, lost friends, and lost my only family (my parents). Fistula robbed me of everything that I once valued, and I have been left very empty.”

  • Serafina

    Angola

    Serafina is 18 years old and from the Mukubal tribe in southwestern Angola. Married off at a young age and one of several wives, Serafina became pregnant when she was 14. She is very small-boned and was suffering from malnutrition when she came to the hospital, as food is often scarce in that part of the country. As a result of that and other factors, her delivery did not go well.

  • Ndatsaha

    Madagascar

    Ndatsaha developed fistula when she went in to labor with her third child. She sought the services of a traditional birth attendant, as she had with her previous pregnancies, and as most women did in her community. But this time, things were different. The baby did not come, and Ndatsaha labored in excruciating pain for three days.

  • Merin’y

    Madagascar

    Merin'y is the mother of three healthy children, but when the time came to deliver her fourth child, things did not go as they had before. Her labor was long and intense, and resulted in an obstetric fistula.

  • Meranesoa

    Madagascar

    Meranesoa’s husband accompanied her to the hospital for her fistula surgery, and said he had every intention of helping, supporting and standing by her side while she received and recovered from treatment.

  • Saran

    Guinea

    After developing a fistula with the birth of her fourth child, Saran received free fistula surgery at our partner site Jean Paul II Hospital in Conakry, Guinea.

  • Marizany

    Madagascar

    At the age of 18, Marizany and her husband looked forward to the arrival of their first child. But labor did not go as planned, and Marizany was left with an obstetric fistula, leaking urine uncontrollably. She suffered from fistula for 28 years.

  • 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.

  • Nanyoor

    Tanzania

    Nanyoor experienced a terrible obstructed labor when she was only 16 years old. She is a member of the Maasai tribe in northern Tanzania, and her remote community is miles away from any major healthcare facility.

  • Chepotyeltyel

    Kenya

    Chepotyeltyel is a Pokot woman from a remote, rural area in northwestern Kenya. After suffering with fistula for nearly 50 years, she was finally able to receive free fistula treatment in July 2016.

  • Jenipher

    Zambia

    While giving birth to her fifth child in 1998, Jenipher endured a prolonged labor, and her baby was stillborn. Afterwards, Jenipher began leaking uncontrollably- she had developed an obstetric fistula. After 18 years of living with fistula, she had all but given up hope of getting treatment, until she heard a comforting voice on the radio.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Aidah

    Nigeria

    72 year old Aidah lived with obstetric fistula for an astounding 41 years before accessing treatment at Evangel Vesico-Vaginal Fistula Center in Jos. Her family stuck by her side the entire time, and recounted to hospital staff how fistula severely limited her (and their) opportunities and success in life.

  • Tovisoa

    Madagascar

    Tovisoa is hopeful as she waits for fistula surgery that could change her life.

  • 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.

  • Everlyn

    Kenya

    Everlyn developed fistula during her second pregnancy. Shunned and stigmatized by her own family, her husband stood by her side until she received successful treatment through the Action on Fistula program.