The dress ceremony at the Danja Fistula Center was held on August 16th. It was a joyous conclusion to two weeks of surgery and recovery. The women were given beautiful new dresses, which symbolize their new life and the end of their long and often discouraging journey with obstetric fistula.
The ceremony was held in the ward. The women paraded in and sang, clapped and danced around the audience, which consisted of their family members and all the doctors, nurses and local staff who made this happy occasion possible.
A couple of the patients shared their stories with fistula. Dr. Arrowsmith, Dr. Intengré (our new doctor who will be starting full-time when the clinic opens for year-round services), and some of the nurses also spoke, saying how delightful the patients were to work with. One of the nurses said to the women, “I hope you feel beautiful today.” The women broke into big smiles and cheered, clearly responding with a “Yes!” Then the women sang and danced to a traditional Hausa song of praise and thanks, in honor of the medical team and local staff.
Finally, after pictures and lots of hugs, it was time for the women to leave. We are optimistic that they will return and be accepted into their villages and families and that they will be able to continue with the life they once knew, with good health and renewed hope.
The women were truly a joy to work with, and the whole medical team was touched and inspired by their gentle kindness and strong spirit. We will miss them, but we look forward to 2012 when we can meet and treat more of these women.
Halima is our oldest patient, a short crinkly woman who loves to dance. She is always the first one dancing whenever music is playing, shaking her hips with a big smile on.
She has lived with obstetric fistula for ten years. She developed the injury giving birth to her third child. Her labor lasted for a full week with no medical care or help. Halima was finally taken to a clinic and had a Cesarean section. Her child was stillborn and she never found out if it was a boy or a girl. However, before leaving the clinic, she did find out she had started to leak.
Months later, Halima went to Katsina (a hospital in Nigeria) for fistula repair surgery. She had two unsuccessful surgeries there. Her husband left her after the first unsuccessful surgery, and since then she has lived with her parents.
Two weeks ago she came to the Danja Fistula Center with the hope that our medical team could help her. I am happy to announce that her surgery was successful and that she is finally dry. At the dress ceremony, she was radiant—full of hope for a better future and a return to the life she once knew. And of course, she was dancing.
With a beautiful smile and constant chatter, Saimsa exudes warmth and confidence. Despite her sunny disposition, this 26-year-old has suffered from obstetric fistula for seven years.
Since her first two pregnancies resulted in stillbirths, Saimsa knew it was important to give birth in a medical center the next time she was pregnant. So for her third pregnancy, at the first sign of labor, she went to a clinic early in the morning and was in labor all day. By nightfall, her attendant told her the birth was not possible and referred her to the Maradi clinic. Halfway there, during the middle of the night, her taxi broke down. Still having contractions, she was stranded by the road until she could find another taxi in the morning. By the time she made it to Maradi, her baby was dead. She had a manual removal of the stillborn. After the procedure, she discovered she was incontinent. She had a fistula between her bladder and vagina.
Months later, Saimsa made the journey to Katsina, the largest fistula hospital in Nigeria. She was accompanied by her mother’s co-wife (her mother had died during childbirth). After waiting for three months at Katsina, she got surgery. Unfortunately, it wasn’t successful. She was still incontinent and had sustained nerve damage during the procedure, so now she also had difficulty walking. She went home and after a few more months, she returned to Katsina and had a second unsuccessful surgery.
She went home again. Although her husband left her when she got fistula and subsequently remarried, he continues to refuse to divorce her. She hasn’t heard from him in years. Since she cannot remarry, she has been living with family members.
A few years later, she heard a radio announcement about the Worldwide Fistula Fund’s work in Danja and the construction of the Danja Fistula Center. With no living parents or children to help her, she came to meet us by herself.
Today, we are happy to announce that she is our first patient at the newly-built Danja Fistula Center. She had surgery today and the hole was successfully closed. We are waiting to see if bladder function is fully restored; however, Saimsa is in good spirits (she’s constantly flashing that beautiful smile) and we are all optimistic!