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Board Member and Rehabilitation Advisory Council (RAC) Director

Theresa Monaco Spitznagle PT, DPT, MHS, WCS

Theresa Monaco Spitznagle PT, DPT, MHS, WCS

Q. You recently visited Danja Fistula Center to observe and advise the Physical Therapy (PT) program through the RAC. What can you tell me about your experience?

A. During my visit, I observed that the women needed physical activity throughout their day, especially while waiting for surgery. PT increases their lower extremity strength and endurance.

Before a fistula, a woman would walk miles every day to collect firewood or bring back water for cooking and cleaning. With fistula, however, many women are isolated or abandoned. They reduce their activity level, with the hope of healing the fistula, and they hide away to avoid drawing attention to their incontinence.

Once at the Danja Fistula Center (DFC), PT empowers these women. They feel safe and able to get stronger so they can return to their prior lifestyle. DFC is a heaven to these girls and women. When you walk through the village, you can feel the comradery and confidence. They engage in the community and it is a thrill to see them  braiding each other’s hair, chatting amongst themselves and giggling!

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graceGrace is a volunteer through WFF’s partner TERREWODE in Uganda. In this interview, Grace shares her experience helping women with fistula in her community:

Q: How long have you been an advocate for maternal health?

Grace: Over 14 years. Grace is TERREWODE’s longest serving Fistula Advocate.

Grace founded the Ocal Cluster Level C Association in her hometown in Uganda. She recruited 20 female advocates to join her mission encouraging local leaders to improve maternal health care at local Health Centers.

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Posted on August 31, 2015

Soja Orlowski, Executive Director

Soja Orlowski, Executive Director

I was named the Executive Director in August and I’m grateful for the confidence that the WFF Board has placed in me.

I’ve worked at nonprofit organizations in multiple fields: domestic violence, people with disabilities, substance abuse and treatment, affordable housing and college scholarships for students without means. What these organizations had in common was they provided people opportunities to better their situations. Too often poverty was a factor in their current predicament.

When I first started working at Worldwide Fistula Fund, I did not know what obstetric fistula was. I was horrified when I learned it left women leaking urine or feces continuously from their vagina. Now my goal is to help WFF grow to help more women and address the great injustice of fistula, the consequence of a childbirth gone wrong and no access to quality obstetric care.

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joni-kabanaGuest blog by Joni Kabana

WFF sent photographer-videographer Joni Kabana to Uganda to document the work of our partner, TERREWODE.  She had the pleasure of meeting some of their dedicated volunteer-advocates who go into villages to increase fistula awareness and provide prevention education. Joni shares the story of a dedicated male advocate she met in Soroti

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Dr-Itengre
Guest Blog by Dr. Itengre Ouedraogo, DFC’s Chief Medical Officer

It’s a good day when I can share the joy of my patients.

Amagadas Habsou is a Touareg woman from Tahoua, around 350 km from Maradi. She got married when she was 17 years old and got pregnant at the same age. After seven days of labor, she delivered a stillbirth at home and suffered her fistula. Her husband divorced her and since then she had been living in her village without any hope of being healed — for 40 years.

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Betty Awici

Betty (far right) leads survivors in a cultural dance to promote fistula awareness and social reintegration.

Ever wonder what it’s like going house-to-house in rural villages, searching for women who need fistula treatment? Betty Awici is a volunteer through WFF’s partner TERREWODE. Betty and her fellow volunteers help to identify those affected with fistula, give them access to quality care, and socially reintegrate them into their communities.

In this interview, Betty shares with us her experience helping women in Uganda:

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Rahel Nardos, MD

Rahel Nardos, MD

Guest Blog by Dr. Rahel Nardos, MD, WFF Board Member

One at a time, the women walked into the operating room with their IV bags in their hands. If they were anxious or afraid, their stoic faces did not show it. Faithfully, each woman leaned her head against one of ours as our anesthesiologist placed a spinal anesthesia that would allow her to have her surgery without pain. It is impossible not to appreciate their vulnerability and be humbled by the level of trust that these women placed in our team. They did not speak our language, most had no education, and none had the opportunity to build a doctor-patient relationship over a period of time. They saw this as their only opportunity for healing:

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International Women’s Initiative (IWI) recently interviewed WFF Executive Director Maureen Powers for their Women with Initiative blog and we learned of their new Safe Birthing Program in Northern Uganda. WFF works in Soroti, Uganda, to prevent and treat the devastating childbirth injury obstetric fistula. We welcome IWI’s efforts to improve the safety of childbirth which can help prevent injuries like obstetric fistula.

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Loran Hollander.Guest Blog by Loran Hollander, PT, WFF Rehabilitation Advisory Council

We medical professionals pore over clinical patient data looking for factors correlating to better recovery outcomes. I think we don’t always give enough attention to one factor that we can’t find in the data: helping the patient overcome their own fear during recovery.

My trip last November to Danja Fistula Center on behalf of Worldwide Fistula Fund’s Rehabilitation Advisory Council with Dr. Cambey Mikush bore this out. I learned a great deal by interviewing the women directly.

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African FlowersGuest Blog by Dr. Cambey Mikush

I am Cambey Mikush, a recent graduate from Washington University in St. Louis with a doctorate in Occupational Therapy. I became aware of the devastation that is inflicted on women with obstetric fistula right before starting my graduate program in 2010. The more I learned, the more it became clear to me that women with obstetric fistula were experiencing a sudden and significant change in their ability to participate in their daily activities. Read More

 
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