Guest Blog — My Good Day at Danja Fistula Center
May 19, 2015
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.
Our recruitment team found her after and brought her to Danja Fistula Center. Fistula causes suffering for women without access to proper obstetric care — especially poor women, and women who get married very young. We did Amagadas’ surgery and she went home dry!
Amagadas does not have children, but she said: “I am happy to be normal.” She benefited from our social reintegration program where she learnt basic literacy and embroidery and tailoring skills which will help her meet her basic income needs at home.
May 23rd is International Day to End Fistula.
I will be working at Danja while around me, women are learning new skills so they can return to their lives healed, healthy and strong. Will you help heal more women like Amagadas? She suffered for 40 years.
After a successful repair the reaction of the women is usually happiness and a preparation to a new life. Sometimes they just cannot believe until they are completely dry for many days. It is very funny to see some of them looking at their legs when they walk to make sure there is no urine.
We have many good days like these. A good day in Danja is the day we screen patients and see everybody with hope and excited to have their surgery. Or a surgery day, when even though they are still recovering, they are happy because they are dry and not leaking. I have had many rewarding things being a fistula surgeon in Niger — a patient coming and bowing down before us as a sign of thanksgiving or bringing chickens from home.
It is always rewarding when a former patient comes back to share her joy.
My former patient Garba Aisha had come back to Danja radiant with joy, her new baby in her arms. In December 2014, she came to share her joy with us because she was pregnant. We recommended her to have a planned cesarean section which she did in January 2015. And now, this spring, she came back to show us her baby.
Garba is from Guidan Sorri (Guidan Roumdji), about 60 km from Maradi. She was married when she was 15 years old and had her first pregnancy at this age. She remained two days in labor and when she finally got to the health center she delivered vaginally with vacuum aspiration — a stillbirth — and had her fistula. Six years later she had her first fistula repair in Maradi, which failed. Garba waited four years again before coming to Danja. She finally had a successful repair — after a total of 10 years leaking urine.
There are challenges, too.
My real challenge of working in fistula surgery is suffering along with every patient in whom the repair fails. Sometimes the repair surgery just fails, and other times, women can be reinjured if they do not have the family support they need.
But it is always worth it.
I began in general surgery, and then came to work in a program to increase access to emergency obstetrical care for rural women. It was my first real direct contact with fistula patients and understanding the need to do the surgery. I felt that it was part of my responsibility to help, but I did not really have full competency. In 2008, I met Professor Lewis Wall in Maradi who was working to open a fistula center in Danja. I think the experience he had in Africa with fistula patients impressed me very much and increased my feelings to serve in the field. Since then, his life has been a strong motivation for me and he served as a father to me in fistula surgery. Every day, I get to see the hope in women’s faces when they come to us, and share their joy when the surgery is successful and they are finally dry.
I am thankful to Dr. Wall for introducing me and supporting me in this wonderful field of obstetric fistula surgery.