Monday, November 17, 2008

Sarah Omega Kidangasi - Notes from the Ground (Kenya)

I am fine and doing well. We have just ended our fistula camp which was held at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital from the 3rd to 16th of November. It has been satisfying just to be there for those women to listen to their heartache and experiences and just assure them that after the surgery, their pain will fade away.

During the two weeks, my role has been to talk to the patients before the surgery. About 99% of the patients said they have no idea what caused the leaking of urine and stool. For this reason, I have to explain to the patients exactly what caused the leaking of urine and the passing of stool uncontrollably. I have to make them understand that they are not the only ones, but it is a condition that is affecting a large percentage of women (and I use our country and global statistics to help them understand better). I help them to realize that that they are lucky to not have died during child birth even if they were left with fistula.

Also, due to lack of information at the community level about obstetric fistula, there has been a lot of misperception about the causes of obstetric fistula. This has really contributed to these women being stigmatized, so I help them erase these misperceptions and understand it's just a condition -- not a curse. This is also the time I share with them my story.

After giving them all this information, I prepare them psycologically by telling them that it is a condition that will be repaired through surgery, and after the surgery I encourage them to take plenty of fluids and do physical therapy. At first, I found that most of the women were not cooperative, but when slowly told about the importance of all these things, I found that they really cooperated and could go on to have success surgeries. While still in the ward, I encouraged them to reach other women in their respective communities, since it is a quicker way to spread information about the prevention and treatment of fistula. I have further plans of holding some seminars with them to better equip them in reaching and educating their respective communities effectively.

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