Nurse Karin With Families Outside the Fistula Hospital

Nurse Karin With Families Outside the Fistula Hospital

Field Report From Danja: Wrapping Up (and Dressing Up)

There are currently 14 women still receiving obstetric fistula treatment on the ward, and while nothing is guaranteed in the medical world, they are doing exceptionally well and the team is on schedule for a completion of services on Monday.
On that same day, the women who underwent fistula surgery will participate in a dress ceremony wherein they will all be given beautiful new dresses to mark this new stage in their life. For many of these women, the dresses will be the first new clothes they have ever had and serve to replace the soiled rags they were wearing when admitted. The community is invited to gather and witness this incredible celebration of life. Traditionally, women have shared their personal stories, sang songs and danced and cheered with the staff, community and each other.
After the Dress Ceremony, May 2010
The medical team is excited to attend the dress ceremony and usher these women into a new era of health and happiness. They are an incredibly diverse bunch, including a surgeon from Alabama, an operating room nurse from Texas, ward nurses from Portland, Chicago and Dallas, the Netherlands and New Zealand, as well as an operating nurse from Australia, a surgeon from Burkina Faso and a surgeon from Grand Rapids, MI.
Medical Team, March 2011

Field Report From Danja: Family Ties

There is a space in between the fistula hospital ward and the operating room where family members of the patients have congregated for over a week. They support one another, bring food to their loved ones and greet the women with great happiness when they come out of surgery – regardless of whether or not they know them. They are a wonderful addition to the facility, and have a very positive impact on both the fistula patients and the staff.

The family members also have a favorite cheer that they shout to all of the medical staff when they walk by: “Barka da Aikey,” which means “Blessings on your work.”

Meet Namu

Although all of Namu’s family members warned her not to travel to Danja to see the Western doctors, the misery of her obstetric fistula outweighed the discontent of her family. She first came to get screened by the Worldwide Fistula Fund’s team during their August 2010 surgical trip. During that appointment, she was treated medically for the first time in her life and heard first-hand accounts from women who had previously been treated. While the WFF doctors couldn’t fit her in the schedule until the March trip, her experience at the fistula hospital the first time assured her that the team had her best interests at heart. When she arrived this week she was greeted by the same nurses who saw her in August and told us that she now has an aspiration of becoming a fistula nurse. Namu received surgical treatment on Monday and is recuperating well and in great spirits.

Meet Bamile

Bamile is nearly 30 years old and has been living with an obstetric fistula for over a decade. She has five siblings but since her fistula developed, they have refused to recognize her existence. She lives in a small shack behind her family’s house and does odd jobs in exchange for food and shelter.

We met Bamile because she heard a radio ad that the Worldwide Fistula Fund’s team was coming to Danja, and borrowed money from her parents to take a two-day long taxi trip to receive treatment. To make sure that she didn’t miss the opportunity, she arrived at the fistula hospital five days early.

Bamile has a bubbly personality and spends her days chatting with her new friends on the ward and trying to figure out what she is going to do with her life now that she is not perpetually leaking.

Field Report From Danja: Day Three of Fistula Surgeries

Surgeons are close to completing their third full day of surgeries, with the fourth and final procedure being conducted as I write this. Tomorrow (Sunday) is an off day, and then there will be a full slate on Monday and Tuesday.

The above picture is from the current ward with women who are recovering from their surgeries. This will be the last time that the team uses the current facility, because the brand new fistula hospital should be opening in a few months.

After fistula surgery, it is typical for a woman to be treated for a week in the hospital to monitor the status of the surgical repair, continue treatment, check for infection and conduct physical therapy. There is an incredible feeling of support in the ward amongst the patients, and they show such incredible warmth to all of the medical personnel who are providing them each with a new lease on life.

Field Report From Danja: Fistula Surgery Update

Day two of surgeries ended with four more repairs. Two of the women that received surgeries were near 50 years in age and had been living with obstetric fistulas for decades. The team has also admitted four more women that are scheduled for surgeries tomorrow. It is remarkable to see the spirit and courage in all of the women. They are jubilant with hope and also fearful of undergoing a surgical repair. They comfort each other on the ward, and while they may be alone in their village or even their home, they have found wonderful company and support from the other survivors.

Three Women Walking to the Fistula Hospital

Field Report From Danja: Fistula Surgeries Have Begun

The last time the medical team was in Danja (November), they were able to
complete enough screenings for women that were not repaired to fill up all of the surgical spots for this trip. Twenty-four women have been waiting since then for the team to return and for the fistula surgeries to begin. Word spread through the area that the team was coming out, so more than 40 women arrived prior to the team in a hope that they could be seen for surgery. In fact, some women have been on the grounds for as long as eight days to make sure that they did not miss out on this surgical opportunity. They have gathered just outside the medical ward under a shaded tree and patiently waited for a chance to speak with the nurses and to be evaluated.

Surgeries have started and the team is currently working on their fourth and last one of the day. The first three have gone exceptionally well, and the women are resting in the recovery ward. One of the ladies just completed her third repair, and has been coaching the other women, who are very nervous, about how they can expect to feel after obstetric fistula surgery.