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home Publications Blog Guest Blog — My First Trip to Danja


Guest Blog — My First Trip to Danja

May 5, 2016

Guest blog by Dr. Karla Wente

Dr. Karla Wente is a Physical Therapist and Women’s Clinical Specialist at Florendo Physical Therapy in Chicago, Illinois and a member of WFF’s Rehabilitation Advisory Council (RAC). The RAC is committed to Physical Therapy best practices and continued improvements in quality education of those treating women with obstetric fistula.

Last month, I had the opportunity to visit Danja Fistula Center (DFC Niger) as a member of Worldwide Fistula Fund’s Rehabilitation Advisory Council (RAC). This was my first trip to DFC Niger and it was truly an unforgettable experience.

I saw women first arrive at DFC Niger suffering and in pain. Then, I saw them transform to having the biggest, happiest smiles you can imagine. These transformations speak to the power of community and how the strong, supportive surroundings of DFC Niger can change these women’s lives. At DFC Niger, the environment is familial and inspiring.

My purpose for being there was to implement the RAC strategy of incorporating best physical therapy practices into fistula care for optimal healing & recovery. Unlike in the US, there is no Physical Therapist (PT) licensing in Niger and African PTs do not receive continuous education. There is a huge disadvantage of limited physical therapy education. I spent my time training DFC Niger’s clinical nurse, Sotoura, on current and best PT practices. At the beginning of my trip, Sotoura lacked confidence but finally saw how she could make a difference for these women as her training continued. At the end of my trip, Sotoura said, “I didn’t realize how these women have lingering pain and now I get why we do this and that I can help improve their symptoms through therapy.”

Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate the sacrifices mothers have made in our lives. The mothers at Danja Fistula Center are no exception. Nearly 90% of recent patients had lost their child as well as their dignity. They are abandoned, ashamed and in pain.

For two weeks, I trained physical therapy and nursing staff in appropriate pelvic floor examination and proper exercise techniques to strengthen and increase mobility in the pelvic floor. This decreases incontinence, decreases pain, and improves the quality of life of these patients. Dr. Spitznagle, RAC Director & WFF Board Member, traveled to Danja last November and her impact was visible. There was a renewed camaraderie among all clinicians at DFC Niger which is imperative because surgery doesn’t always resolve all fistula symptoms. The ways in which Physical Therapy can improve the quality of a woman’s life is greatly underestimated. For a woman with severe deficits with walking due to foot drop post-delivery , surgery may make her continent , but therapy will get her walking again without crutches, decrease risk of falling, and improve her general function in daily tasks. This allows her to be a more functional member of her community.

You have the power to heal these women and restore their dignity. This Mother’s Day, remember mothers in the developing world suffering with fistula. Give today in honor of your mother and mothers everywhere.