Harriet was barely 15 when she was forced into marriage with a much older man. Her father believed that because her older sister was married and out of the house, it was time for Harriet to do the same. She tried to fight the idea but her father had already packed her belongings and handed her off to her new husband.
She became pregnant soon after.
The man already had two wives and he looked older than my father... The first wife told me that I would never deliver a live child. I grew thin and miserable. When I could not hold any longer, I escaped from the home in the final trimester of the pregnancy and went to stay with my aunt in Bulegeni sub county, Bulambuli district.
Mt. Elgon has minimal public health facilities due to the hilly and slippery terrain. Harriet’s contractions began late one night and continued into the next day. After over 12 hours of labor and very limited resources, her Aunt was able to secure a passenger motorcycle to take her to Kapchorwa hospital (a little over 40 miles away). However, the journey was long and dangerous.
It rained heavily in the night and descending on a winding slippery road downhill on a motorcycle took us five hours to get to the hospital. I was rolled on the motorcycle because we could not ride. When we arrived at Kapchorwa hospital, the midwives examined me and decided I could not deliver normally...
Harriet was unable to deliver vaginally. After undergoing her caesarean section she began leaking urine uncontrollably and her baby was stillborn. Her father visited her briefly but “when he saw my condition, he walked out of the ward promising never to come back again.” Harriet was distraught:
“Nobody likes me. My elder sister who would have supported me also was unfortunate during her delivery because she had a stillbirth just like me. When she learnt of my incident, she told me, ‘life has designed a set of different ill fate for each of us. Each person has to face their own fate.”
After a month of isolation and pain, Harriet was moved to Mbale hospital and a week later she was brought to Terrewode.
Harriet finally received her fistula repair at TWCH and the surgery was a success: “If it wasn’t for this facemask, you would see my real mouth plus teeth. I feel extremely happy waking up on dry bed sheets and a clean body. I’m hopeful for a brighter future!”
After two weeks of treatment at TWCH, Harriet finally started to look healthy and strong. She still suffers from psychological trauma that will require counseling and psychosocial support.
Her aunt, with many children of her own, is unable to take Harriet in again. She has been enrolled in reintegration training at Terrewode:
I love this place because of the spacious compound. Whenever I feel fatigued, I walk around the compound and sit under a tree to relive the mind and body. And wait — the food is nice, too. I have two friends I met here when I came for treatment. They suffer the same condition as mine. One is still fresh from surgery and still on catheter, while the other’s catheter has also been removed and she was cured. They are all happy for me.