As a trained midwife, Barnabus Mulenga acts as a mentor and counselor to pregnant women, helping them with family planning and deliveries. What sets Barnabus apart from other midwifes, however, is that he’s also a fistula nurse, acting as a mentor to other nurses about the best ways to treat fistula patients. “I love this…
Sitting beside her husband outside their home in rural Mafinga District, Ronasi Nambobe recounts her story of developing and overcoming fistula.
In 2016, Ronasi, 27, was in the ninth month of her fifth pregnancy when she went into labor. She headed to a rural health center where she waited for a week. She was in labor for a day and a half when the nurse said she wasn’t delivering and said she should go to Isoka General Hospital. An ambulance was called and she headed there. Once at the hospital, the doctor examined her and said she needed a cesarean section, which she had. The baby was stillborn. Throughout the surgery, she was unconscious – she woke up at 4 a.m. and realized she was in the hospital.
“I didn’t know what was happening because I was very sick,” she said.
She stayed in the hospital for five days before she was discharged and headed back to her village. Her stitches and catheter were removed at the rural health center, but afterward, she went to sleep and woke up and noticed she was wet. She tried to sit and also became wet.
“Months started passing and it became a daily routine,” she said.
Fistula Foundation had been active in educating the community, and Ronasi’s neighbor gave her the information about the foundation’s work. She spoke with a Community Health Volunteer who then informed the Mafinga program officer about her condition.
In May, it was confirmed she had fistula and arrangements were made to send her to Mbala General Hospital for surgery.
“I was excited when the car came to pick me up,” she said. “But when I was going to the hospital, I was doubting whether I’d be OK or not.”
At Mbala, she was the first of the patients to be treated. After the operation, she was given water and a bottle of juice to drink as well as a patient pack, which includes items like soap, a toothbrush, pads, panties and more.
“The next day, people started visiting,” she said. “It stayed like that for some time, asking if I slept, if the bed was wet.”
When her catheter was removed, she became very excited, she said.
She returned to her village and her husband, who stayed with her throughout the process and shared a bed with her, which encouraged her.
“I never thought I’d get OK,” she said, later discussing the devastating social effects that come with it “You can’t go to market, church or places unless you’re cured.”
As for her future, she plans to continue farming and selling produce at the weekly market.
Ronasi’s husband, 34-year-old Steward Muwowo, said he never used to feel good watching his wife go through such trouble. He often blamed himself, thinking he was the cause of her ailment.
He said they are following the rules of abstaining from sex for three moths post-surgery.
“I don’t want to see her go through what she went through,” he said.
This story was written by Kristi Eaton in 2018 for Fistula Foundation’s Writer in Residence program.
- Population: 15,510,711
- Average Births per Woman: 5.67
- Female Literacy: 56%
- Population Living in Poverty: 60.5% (less than $1.25/day)