When Fadhila became pregnant with her fifth child, she and her husband were thrilled at the chance to expand their family. On the day she went into labor, her husband and community elders encouraged her to give birth at home. After enduring severe pain for more than three days, her family realized something was very wrong and she needed to see a doctor.
When they arrived at the local health center in their village, the doctors could not help her because of the severity of her condition. They rushed Fadhila to another hospital farther from their village. As soon as she arrived she was taken in for a Cesarean section.
Unfortunately, the intervention was too late and her baby was stillborn.
Returning home from the hospital without a baby was heartbreaking for the whole family. In addition, Fadhila found she had become incontinent. The obstetric fistula caused by her prolonged, obstructed labor was so severe she was leaking both urine and feces.
“I had no idea what was happening to me”, she remembered. “I didn’t know what caused it or what fistula was. I could tell my neighbors were afraid of me. Some of them said having children caused this, others told me I was being cursed by witchcraft”.
Fadhila’s doctors told her they could not help her because they had no fistula surgeons on staff, and referred her to a hospital in Dar es Salaam. After traveling for nearly a day, she arrived and was admitted. Several days later she was referred again, this time to the CCBRT Disability Hospital.
When CCBRT fistula specialists examined Fadhila, they found she was extremely weak and malnourished. Her skin was pale and she could not walk without using a crutch. Doctors prescribed healthy, fortified foods and rest in order to prepare her for further surgery. While back in her home village gaining her strength for the upcoming surgery, Fadhila educated the neighbors who used to be afraid of her about what fistula was, and what could be done to prevent and cure it.
Fadhila returned to CCBRT and underwent the reparative operation. As she recovered in the Fistula Ward she said “I am eager to return to my home village as a CCBRT fistula ambassador.” Her testimony of healing will empower other women who may be living in silence with the same condition, and can help prevent other women from experiencing the same trauma. Hongera sana, Fadhila. Many congratulations on your recovery, strength, and bright future.