Maternal Health

Laxmi’s Story: Overcoming Challenges to Fistula Repair in Nepal

Laxmi after fistula repair. Photo courtesy of International Nepal Fellowship.
Laxmi after fistula repair. Photo courtesy of International Nepal Fellowship.

Laxmi, an obstetric fistula patient in Nepal received care through a repair camp Direct Relief supported with needed medicines and medical supplies. Shared with her permission, Laxmi’s first-hand account follows below.

My name is Laxmi Bhatt. I live with my husband and two sons in Baitadi district, Salina 4 in Nepal. I am 32 years old. I married when I was 15 and my first son was born when I was 17 years old. That delivery and the birth of my second son a year later were both very straightforward, fortunately. We live far from the bazaar and health post. Our home is isolated and if we need help it is difficult to find. We are poor and I have to work hard collecting grass and firewood in the forest.

A Painful Childbirth

When my younger son was six years old, I became pregnant again. I didn’t realise until I was already five months pregnant. I didn’t have any antenatal check-ups because I live far from the clinic. When the baby was due, labour pains started at about 10 o’ clock at night. Pain continued until morning and then the baby’s hand appeared.

My husband looked for people to help and eventually I was carried to a hospital in India. We arrived three days after the labour began. They delivered the baby by operation but the baby was already dead. I didn’t regain consciousness until the next day. Then I found I had a catheter in my bladder. I was sent home with the catheter and told to return in 30 days to have it removed. After 15 days, the catheter somehow fell out at home and from then my urine leaked continuously – I couldn’t control it.

We are poor. We have little money and all we had was already spent on the treatment I had in India. So I stayed at home, ashamed of my condition.

Complications Three Years Later

After three years, we heard that there was a doctor at Dadeldhura hospital who could operate for my condition. My family took me there and I had an operation but it was not successful. I came home very sad. After that, more and more health problems developed. My urine burned me when it leaked and I had constant back pain and fever. My husband’s brother took me to India. They gave me some treatment but told me that one of my kidneys was already destroyed and I could die of kidney failure.

Receiving a Diagnosis Six Years Later

It is now six years since this problem began. One day, one of the staff from the health post came and told me that they had received training about my problem. I had an obstetric fistula and in Surkhet there was free treatment for this problem. My husband’s brother took the phone number for International Nepal Fellowship (INF) in Surkhet and phoned to register my name for the camp. They said I should come two months later.

Kidney Damage Delays Repair

I was one of the first to arrive at the hospital. I had lots of investigations, blood tests and ultrasound scan and X- rays. I was told that I had a stone in my bladder and I could not have surgery for the hole in my bladder until the bladder stone was removed and the bladder had recovered. I was also told that there were stones in both of my kidneys and these had caused a lot of damage.

I had an operation to remove a stone the size of a large potato from my bladder. While I was recovering from this I had more tests to see if my kidney function would improve. The results were not good. I was told I needed urgent treatment for the stones in my kidneys and INF arranged for me to go to a hospital in Kathmandu.

All the costs of travel and treatment were paid for me and in B&B hospital I had more tests and then two more major operations, one kidney was removed and all the stones were taken from the other kidney. A month later, I travelled back to Surkhet with my elder son. I was feeling much better and blood tests showed my kidney was recovering. I couldn’t wait to have the operation to close the hole in my bladder. I just wanted to be dry – to go home whole and well.

Dignity Restored

So at last in April I had the operation for fistula – the fourth big operation in six weeks. I wasn’t afraid. I just wanted to be well. I had two weeks to wait until it was time for the catheter to be removed. We laughed a lot- my son and I. The day arrived – the bladder hole was healed and the catheter was removed. At first I found I had to get up to pass urine every few minutes. My bladder just wasn’t used to holding anything. But I was dry and so happy. Every day my bladder could hold a little bit more and at last I was ready to take the three day journey home.

There is a huge change in my life since the operation and all this happiness is thanks to the help INF Surkhet gave me.

***

How You Can Help

You can help surgeons have access to the tools they need to perform these life-changing fistula repair surgeries when you support Direct Relief’s maternal and child health programs by donating at this link. To learn more about obstetric fistula and how it can be repaired and prevented, click here.

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