One of Direct Relief’s GlaxoSmithKline PULSE volunteers, Jane Lehnhoff, is based at our partner organization OGRA Foundation in Kisumu, Kenya where she is supporting our work to expand obstetric fistula treatment to women in the region. A registered nurse, Jane has been able to assist with fistula surgery while there and is also organizing a support group for the women after they receive fistula repair. Below, she shares a touching story of a fistula survivor she recently met:
Since she delivered her baby nine years ago, 23-year-old Anna* has suffered from obstetric fistula – a hole in the birth canal caused by prolonged and obstructed labor that results in constant and uncontrollable leakage of urine and/or feces, if left untreated.
As is the case with many women with fistula, she suffered humiliation, isolation, and stigma as a result of the smell and constant leakage. Her boyfriend left her after she gave birth. I asked her what she did prior to fistula repair and she looked down and said she stayed home and just slept a lot. She felt ashamed and didn’t want to go out anywhere. Essentially, she was a prisoner of her condition.
She heard about fistula repair services on the radio and came for screening at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital (JOORTH) – the main hospital in Kisumu. She was confirmed with fistula and was scheduled for surgery two days later. I accompanied this vibrant, shy young woman, to theater and assisted the surgeon, Dr. Mbogo, with her surgical repair. She was a little anxious but told me that she was also very happy to be having the surgery.
I went back to the hospital the next day to visit. I found that Anna, who spoke more English than the other two girls on the ward, immediately became the leader of the group and helped translate for me. She told me that she was very happy not to be leaking any more.
When I asked her what she planned to do when she returned to her community, she told me that she wants to go to church and that she would like to be a tailor (dressmaker). I wish only the best for her and look forward to continued interaction with her and my other fistula recruits as we band together to fight fistula!
*Name changed to protect privacy