Meet Salome

Salome's labor began at night. She sought help from her mother-in-law, who immediately called Salome's husband - by cultural norms, the only one who could give permission for Salome to seek help at a hospital. But he had turned his phone off for the night and was unreachable. Her mother-in-law tried all she could throughout the night to help Salome deliver her child. By the time Salome's husband returned the call the next morning to advise that she be taken immediately to the hospital, it was too late. The baby did not survive, and Salome had developed an obstetric fistula.

Salome's Story

When Salome sat down to speak with us, she confessed that despite living with fistula for seven years, this would be the very first time she had ever shared her story. Shyly, she said, “I have never shared my condition with anyone, including my husband, even though it was evident that he knew something was wrong with me but he never found the courage for us to have a conversation about it.”

Salome and her husband were married in 2010. She lived with her mother-in-law in their rural home in a small and somewhat isolated community in western Kenya. Her husband’s work required him to live in Nairobi, but he traveled home to his village for at least two days each month to spend time with Salome. When she became pregnant with her first baby, her mother-in-law gave her the best care and support that she could, making sure that Salome went for all of her prenatal visits. In most cases, her mother-in-law would even accompany her for these visits.

Salome describes the emotional day she went in to labor: “At around 10pm when I had already gone to my little house, I started experiencing labor pains. I was alone. The more time went by, the more the pain intensified, and I started getting frightened since it was my first experience. I wasn’t very sure with what to expect considering the fact that I had heard a lot of stories around childbirth and it was so clear that every woman’s story was different and every pregnancy was different. I made an effort to reach my mother-in-law’s house and immediately when my mother-in-law saw me she automatically knew the most awaited moment had come. She tried calling my husband’s phone but unfortunately it was turned off (something that most people do at night). We had to wait until morning for my husband to turn on his phone because he was the only person who was to give direction on what we were to do next. In the meantime, my mother-in-law was busy trying out everything to help me deliver my baby. Unfortunately, before daybreak, my mother-in-law suspected that my baby wasn’t breathing anymore.”

When morning finally came, her husband called to advise that she be taken to the hospital. But the decision had come too late. Salome had already lost her baby.

“Since that day, we never turn off our mobile phones especially at night, this is the lesson we learned the hard way,” Salome shared.

As a result of her prolonged obstructed labor, Salome had developed an obstetric fistula and had begun to leak urine. Her mother-in-law supported her and together, they made Salome’s fistula their family’s top secret. She became pregnant again, and had two successful deliveries after developing fistula. She said that seven years with fistula “flew by” because of the support she received from her mother-in-law and from her husband.

While delivering her second baby, she learned about fistula treatment through her birth attendant. She was able to access free surgery at Gynocare Fistula and Women’s Hospital, through Fistula Foundation’s Action on Fistula program.

As tears welled in her eyes, Salome shared, “Coming to Gynocare has made me realize how lucky I am because of the kind of supportive family that I have, and the fact that I have been able to have two babies, even with my fistula. My heart goes out for those women who were mistreated, chased away or abandoned by their loved ones. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for the young girls who will never have the blessing of being called a mother.”

About Kenya

  • 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)
Read More

We’re Making a Difference in Kenya

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • 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.

  • 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.”

  • Jane

    Kenya

    Conducting patient outreach in rural western Kenya, Jane faces a number of challenges—including threats to her life—as she travels in search of women suffering with fistula. But knowing there are many women who are enjoying life once again thanks to her efforts gives great meaning to her work.

  • 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.

  • Seline

    Kenya

    Seline lives in a small village in the remote region of West Pokot, Kenya. She did not go to school and married young, as is tradition in this pastoralist community. She went into labor with her fourth child about three years ago, preferring to give birth at home with a traditional birth attendant from her village. Only 18% of women give birth in a health center in this region of Kenya, far below the national average of 44%

  • Fistula Foundation - Kamala

    Kamala

    Nepal

    Kamala is a 47 year old mother of four and from a very remote area of western Nepal known as Dailekh. She lived with fistula for eight years, but thankfully is one of few patients who had the support of her husband the entire time.

  • Solange

    Madagascar

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

  • 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.

  • Umuhoza

    Rwanda

    Umuhoza arrived at the hospital with two massive fistulas and could barely walk. She was so traumatized by her labor that she could not remember any details. Today she is healed, but the road to recovery has been long and difficult.

  • 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.

  • Ana-Angola

    Ana

    Angola

    Today, Ana is 18 years old, with an enthusiastic outlook and bubbly smile. That wasn’t always the case. Ana was just shy of 16 years old when she became pregnant. Everything went well, until it was time to deliver. Her labor was excruciating, and lasted for days.

  • 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.

  • Sodreine

    Madagascar

    Sodreine is from Iabomora Village, about 56km from Vangaindrano in Madagascar. She gave birth to her first child at the age of 17, but her labor did not progress as planned. As a result, she developed obstetric fistula.

  • 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.

  • Rahila

    Guinea

    Rahila never had the opportunity to attend school; instead, she sells donuts in the market and farms for a living. She married at age 14 and became pregnant soon thereafter. Unfortunately, Rahila developed obstetric fistula during delivery and was left leaking urine and feces.

  • Elizabeth

    Madagascar

    Elizabeth is mother to ten children. For nearly a year, she suffered in shame, uncontrollably leaking urine. A doctor misdiagnosed her condition as a urinary tract infection. Without a way to stop the incontinence, Elizabeth went to great lengths to hide her injury.

  • Fistula Foundation - Maria

    Maria

    Zimbabwe

    Maria is 42 years old. She is HIV-positive and currently on antiretroviral therapy. Maria doesn’t have a permanent place to live – she cannot work because of her incontinence, and has no real income to live on. She survives through the ongoing support of her relatives and friends.

  • Dembe

    Uganda

    Dembe did everything right during her pregnancy—she kept up all of her prenatal doctor’s appointments, and made sure that both she and her baby stayed healthy. When her labor began, Dembe walked the 10 kilometers from her home to the nearest heath center. She expected a normal delivery, but tragically, this would not come to pass—Dembe experienced a wrenching, prolonged labor, and her child did not survive.