Alphonsia’s heart-wrenching story began 27 years ago after her labor failed to progress properly.
When she eventually got to the hospital, doctors discovered the baby had died. Shortly after they removed the baby, Alphonsia began leaking urine and experiencing sharp stomach pains. She went to another hospital where they attempted to repair her fistula, but to no avail. Over the next three years she was shunned and isolated by her community and continued to suffer excruciating pain. After another unsuccessful fistula repair surgery, Alphonsia gave up hope of ever leading a normal life again.
In July 2014, Alphonsia came to Arusha Lutheran Medical Center, one of our partners in Tanzania. There, expert surgeon Dr. Andrew Browning successfully repaired her fistula and found the cause of the sharp pain: a jagged fragment of bone. Alphonsia went home ten days later dry and pain-free for the first time in 27 years.
Fistula Foundation is committed to ending the suffering caused by the childbirth injury obstetric fistula, because we believe no woman should endure a life of misery and isolation simply for trying to bring a child into the world. It is estimated that one million women suffer the devastating effects of obstetric fistula around the world.
While fistula was largely eradicated in developed countries more than a century ago, today it remains a fact of life in many remote areas of sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, where women too often give birth at home without access to modern medical care or emergency obstetric services. If a woman’s labor becomes obstructed and she has no access to a timely C-section, she can remain in excruciating pain for days before her baby is finally dislodged. Her baby often dies and she can be left with an obstetric fistula, a small hole created by constant pressure from the fetus, which renders her incontinent of urine and/or feces. This often leads to social isolation within her family and community due to her smell.
A major barrier to providing high-quality fistula treatment has been the lack of appropriate facilities in which to conduct the operations. Equipment and medical supplies are often insufficient or outdated, and there is a general lack of trained personnel capable of performing and caring for these difficult surgeries. Furthermore, the stigma surrounding fistula means that even when fistula services exist, substantial efforts are required within local communities to encourage women to come forward for treatment.
Fistula Foundation is proud to support fistula treatment at 29 countries throughout Africa and Asia. While our focus is on providing free, high-quality surgeries for women with obstetric fistula, we also fund projects that make those surgeries a reality, including: purchase of operating equipment and/or medical supplies; outreach campaigns in order to educate the public about fistula and locate new patients; renovations to existing facilities and operating rooms, when needed; and surgeon training. Training is especially important, as a shortage of properly trained surgeons is one of the most substantial bottlenecks to increasing the number of women who are able to receive treatment every year.
The average cost of a fistula repair surgery is, on average, just $450 – the cost of a pelvic ultrasound in the U.S. Just $450 to transform one woman’s life forever – what a gift! Won’t you join us?