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Fistula took Merina’s hope and dignity

Merina represents between 2 and 3.5 million women who live with obstetric fistula in the world’s poorest countries. What began with a dream, ended in a nightmare...but cbm supporters comforted her and restored her dignity and hope. 

MerinaMerina was just 18 years old when she learned she was pregnant with her first child. “My husband and I were really excited about having a baby” she told us.

When Merina’s labour pains began her husband took her to the health centre. Tragically Merina’s nurse was not trained in obstetrics – she simply didn’t know that after 12 hours of labour Merina needed urgent help. It wasn’t until 24 hours later that Merina’s family realised her life was in danger and decided she needed to go the hospital – many hours away.

Merina recalls, “It was dark outside. The villagers carried me over the hill on a wooden bed. It took about four hours to reach the main road.”

With a deep breath she continues, “I fell from the bed twice on the way there ... By that time I didn’t feel any pain – I just felt my full womb. My baby had not moved.”

Many hours later the bus arrived and Merina was taken to the District Hospital. Although the doctors performed an emergency caesarean, it was too late for Merina’s baby.

“Afterwards they told me that my baby hadn’t lived anymore, that it was a boy,” Merina whispers. “I would have named him Edwin.”

Merina’s dream had become a nightmare no mother should ever face. And it grows worse...

“When they removed the catheter the doctors saw that I had a fistula. They sent me home and told me to come back after three months... During that time I constantly dripped urine. I also had a strong pain in my leg. I couldn’t do anything.”

And then Merina says something that breaks my heart: “I was very sad. All my former joy had disappeared. Who was I? A woman? I couldn’t do anything. I leaked urine and I smelled bad. I was so ashamed. I had lost my baby... In those days I didn’t have any hope.”

A fistula is caused by prolonged, obstructed labour without timely medical intervention. The pressure of the baby’s head in the birth canal caused a hole to form between the bladder and the vagina, or between the rectum and the vagina. As a result, women often become incontinent.

Thankfully, support from cbm supporters meant that Merina was sent to cbm’s partner hospital.

“There were so many women at the hospital. Up to then I had thought I was the only one ... But no, many of these women had lost their babies too. Those conversations helped my grieving.”

Merina smilingNo one can heal Merina’s grief for the loss of her baby boy, but people like you comforted her when she was in urgent need. 

Together we can make sure other women do not suffer the same tragedy – by ensuring women who live with this condition have access to medical services.

Merina has had surgery to repair her fistula and stop the leaking. When we met her, she was preparing to return home – healed! 

“I want to help other women, just like I was helped. And I have another wish. I’d like to have two healthy children with my husband. Because it must be wonderful to have children.”

Together with you, we can save women like Merina from the tragedy of fistula.

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