Guest Blog — A Dream Coming True In Uganda
August 24, 2018
Guest Blog by Dr. Lewis Wall
The average Ugandan woman with obstetric fistula suffers for 10 years before receiving treatment. It’s horrific to contemplate and devastating to witness.
Now that Uganda is on its way to having a model fistula center, TERREWODE Women’s Community Hospital, I hope to see that appalling reality reversed.
TERREWODE Executive Director Alice Emasu has carried the dream of a dedicated Ugandan fistula hospital in her heart for over a decade.
Worldwide Fistula Fund and I have done the utmost to help make her dream a reality. WFF is her longest continuous supporter. It’s been an amazing journey!
Last year, WFF made a five-year pledge of $675,000 to support TERREWODE. This grant currently supports TERREWODE’s services to women with fistula and will help triple the number of women TERREWODE treats by 2022.
WFF has also given TERREWODE an additional $40,000 grant for 2018! It will provide support services for women awaiting fistula repair. I’m proud to report 84 more women will receive life-changing surgery this year!
I recently returned from a trip to Uganda, where I attended the hospital board of governors meeting. I am happy to report that construction should be completed by the end of this year. Despite the usual starts and stops of construction, the hospital is on track to open for patient care in 2019.
I’ve been part of the planning process since the International Fistula Alliance and TERREWODE began drawing up hospital plans. We’re currently advising Alice on the recruitment and training of key local hospital staff, the acquisition of equipment, and the development of long-term sustainability plans. We are determined to provide care to these women with skilled local personnel who share the same cultural and linguistic background.
Women with obstetric fistulas are a special group of patients, with special needs. The surgery needed to repair their injuries is specialized and often complex. It is extremely difficult to provide the care these women need within the capabilities of a typical government general hospital, where social and rehabilitation services in particular are rudimentary or non-existent. Tracy Spitznagle, my colleague at Washington University in St. Louis and a WFF Board Member, will travel to Uganda early next year to help launch the hospital’s physical therapy services that are so important to optimal fistula recovery.
TERREWODE’s new facility will be a striking upgrade in Ugandan national capacity to care for women with fistula. It replicates the model of care developed at the renowned Hamlin fistula centers in Ethiopia, who partners in this project.
I will be returning to Uganda regularly over the next year as this project comes to fruition and hospital services begin. There are many challenges still before us, but the excitement of seeing Alice’s dream come true makes it all worthwhile.
I encourage you to contribute to Worldwide Fistula Fund to help us support this noteworthy cause, and we will be bringing you regular updates as the process moves forward.
Photos courtesy Dr. Lewis Wall