Arts, Culture & Media

Treating fistula in Ethiopia

(First tell us about this woman who had to live in a hut behind her family's home?) She suffered from obstructive labor and somehow managed to survive; a third of the women die with that infliction. It left her with fistula which causes her incontinence. It's difficult because of the smell and she's very ashamed and she believes she's the only person with this condition. Her family won't let her stay in her house. So she's been in this hut now for many years, she's now 25 years old. (Is this exacerbated by the fact that these women are giving birth at a very young age?) The primary cause of fistula is poverty and that's why you find it in every impoverished country in the world, primarily in Africa and Asia. (this woman eventually decides she wants to get treatment for this in the capitol. Take us on this bus trip she goes on.) The people in rural Ethiopia many live a two day walk from a road and they've never seen a camera and they've never been to the capitol city, so it's scary. The woman wept as she was leaving and she was barefoot, she has no underwear, there's a shot when you see urine coming down her ankles and that's what she looks like all the time. The issue with fistula is not that you can't hold it in, it's that it's constantly coming out and you can't stop it. the bus ride was so long that her ankles ended up wet again. It's difficult to know if this is exposing her shame or whether it needed to be shown and ultimately we decided it needed to be shown. (Tell us about the hospital and what you found there). There's no place like the Fistula Hospital. It's the only hospital of its kind that caters to women with fistula. There's a big ward of 100 beds of women who have just come out of surgery, another room for women waiting to get their surgery and now the hospital is so overwhelmed, there are nearby hospitals where girls are waiting for their turn. But women never get sent away and they will get their turn. (One woman you met is a 17 year old girl and it was not her first visit to the hospital). Yes she falls into the small category where the case is so severe that her first surgery does not help. Her family told her if she's not cured don't come back. so she's thinking if the surgery doesn't work she'll become a beggar on the streets and if that doesn't work she'll kill herself. Her bladder is damaged to the point where it's just not large enough. But the doctors decide it's best for her to do physical therapy and the woman is despondent but you'll have to watch the movie to see the happy ending. (Why is it the case when these women become suicidal?) Because they're so alone. They're rejected by their community and their family because they can't tolerate being around them. And this isolation, it's hard to survive anything. There are still as many as 100,000 in Ethiopia alone suffering from fistula. (Does this happen in this country?) Up until 1895. once modern medicine evolved, it does not happen here. No matter how poor you are, if you go to a hospital they're going to deliver your baby in this country. this is such a horrible injury and it seems so foreign to us. so I try to bring these women into your life. These are just like every other woman I've met. They've really become every woman and they're no longer far away and so our goal is to make these women not far away.

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