Posted by Francesca Rutherford on Tuesday 15th May 2018

Today I would like to share with you a story which has stayed with me. A story of fear and great sadness, of bravery and pain but ultimately a story of love. Asmere’s story begins…

Life before Fistula
Asmere never went to school and spent her childhood looking after goats and supporting her mother at home. When she reached 17 years old, she married her childhood sweetheart and together they started their own life in the village. 

In time Asmere was blessed with a son and two daughters “For strangers who came and saw the happiness we have in the family, we didn’t seem to be poor. We had a joyful life, most villagers felt jealous of us until my 5th delivery” Asmere recalled.

The Journey
Five years ago, Asmere happily fell pregnant once again and was so happy and hopeful that she could complete her family with a fourth healthy child. In rural Ethiopia there is minimal access to antenatal care. So many women end up labouring at home, unassisted.

In a country of 102 million, there are approximately just 5,000 trained midwives. Please give £45 to help provide more midwives in rural Ethiopia.

Unlike Asmere’s other labours, this time she was tortured for two whole days. Her husband was in despair. He decided that this was enough and made a stretcher to carry Asmere the two hours on foot to the closest health centre.

Asmere was then transferred to the Bahirdar branch of Hamlin Fistula Hospital. With the help of surgical intervention, Asmere devastatingly gave birth to a stillborn baby. Not only was she heartbroken, Asmere was left with a double fistula; holes in both the bladder and the bowel. Asmere began to leak urine and faeces.

In 2017 The Ethiopian Ministry of Health estimated there are more than 36,000 women living in rural Ethiopia with obstetric fistula and that over 3,000 new cases occur each year.

Fortunately for Asmere, she was already in the best place for treatment. But before she could be treated, she first had to recover from the trauma.

Sadly Asmere’s injuries were so severe, there was no easy fix. Asmere had four difficult, painful and exhausting surgeries over four years, each time believing, hoping she would be cured, constantly leaking, wet and smelling of urine. “It was my husband who was washing my clothes, bathing me and made everything clean like normal. He was the only one who stood by my side and let me feel that I am in good hands.” Asmere said.

None of these attempts were successful in stopping the urinary incontinence. “In those traumatic four years with fistula, I used to mix with villagers at some communal events but after I saw some villagers seated by my side cover their nose, I abstained myself from attending any event and stayed at home.”

Treatment and Recovery 
In the summer of 2017 Asmere was brought to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital for specialist treatment. She stayed for six months and underwent many different stages of treatments and surgeries. Finally, in December Asmere received the diversion surgery that successfully fixed her injury and left her totally dry.

“The first person I called and told the good news of my cure was my husband and his happiness was unexplainable. He didn’t believe me at first until he confirmed after I got back home with happiness and a bright face. Dr. Catherine Hamlin, you gave us back our happiness that we had lost for almost five years.”

Fistula surgery is life changing. Please help by donating £45 or setting up a regular gift for £10 a month.

Thank you for your continued support to end fistula in Ethiopia.

Sir Alec Reed CBE

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