The Worldwide Fistula Fund is sad to note the passing of Dr. Leonard Wall. Dr. Wall was the father of the WFF’s founder Dr. Lewis Wall and WFF’s current treasurer Dr. Terry Wall. In his memory, WFF has established the Dr. Leonard Wall Memorial Fund. Dr. Leonard Wall was a long time advocate for women around the world and a tireless supporter of the Worldwide Fistula Fund.
The international community is increasingly using a designated ‘day’ to highlight issues that need greater global attention. Two of these days had particular resonance for us here at the Worldwide Fistula Fund-International Day of the Girl – October 11th, and The World Food Day – October 16th.
As schools start and vacations end, Labor Day draws a close to summer and welcomes in fall, while Rosh Hashanah ushers in a new year. The beginning of fall is the traditional time to say goodbye to the laid-back pace of summer, and kick off a new beginning. As an organization, WFF works throughout the year to bring new beginnings to women across Africa who, for some, have spent years of their lives battling the stigmatisms associated with having Obstetric Fistula.
Photo Courtesy of Fistula Care/EngenderHealth
It is with great sadness that Worldwide Fistula Fund has learned of the death of Dr. John Kelly, who had been, for so many years, a storied champion in the battle against obstetric fistula in the developing world. His commitment began in 1967 when he traveled to a hospital in rural Nigeria, where he preformed his first fistula surgery. Since that first surgery, Dr. Kelly provided care to over 9,000 women. After retiring from his practice in England, Dr. Kelly devoted nine months of the year to fistula surgery and traveled to some of the poorest countries to provide fistula care, including Sudan, Pakistan, Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya and many more. For the women he helped, he offered the opportunity to rebuild their lives free of the difficulties and stigma that having a fistula can bring. His surgical work ethic and stamina were utterly remarkable.
Thanks to all the work and incredible generosity from all our supporters, Worldwide Fistula Fund was able to realize a dream last year in the opening of the Danja Fistula Center in Niger. Several years ago Nicholas D. Kristof first wrote about Worldwide Fistula Fund and recently returned to the center to write a new op-ed for his column in the New York Times.
The Worldwide Fistula Fund is dedicated to providing holistic care to women afflicted with obstetric fistula. Our comprehensive programs address the effects of fistula on people who have been wounded physically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually. We believe a program that does not address all these issues is not good enough—fixing the fistula alone does not necessarily heal the whole person.
The Danja Fistula Center in Niger officially opens on February 11 . . . and we are so excited! Our staff is already on site in west Africa making sure that everything is ready to hit the ground running for the first surgeries. The doctors and nurses are trained, the medicines have been stocked, the equipment have been set up, and the wards and treatment areas are sparkling clean to accomodate our eager guests.
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.
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.
Worldwide Fistula Fund physicians, nurses and staff just returned home from a successful trip to Danja, Niger. Each of the 12 women they operated on during the visit are recuperating in good health. Approximately two-thirds of the women the team treated had undergone repair previously at other facilities, and one woman came for her fifth attempt at repair.
Another highlight of the recently completed trip was the introduction of a new orientation process for the surgical patients. Along with a patient volunteer (who had surgery here in August), we performed a small drama about fistula surgery. The patient donned a patient gown, had her blood pressure taken, acted out all of the steps of having fistula surgery and finished her performance by singing a ballad about the experience. The audience then had time to ask questions. Overall, the team felt that this was a very appropriate means of describing the hospitalization process to the patients, and hope to expand upon it for future work at Danja.