My Favorite Part – The Medical Lesson

I’ve been waiting to write this post mainly because I wanted to pull in some themes from a book and needed to re-read it (I love finishing books, by the way).

My favorite part of our trip to Nigeria last November was, by-far, the coolest thing I have ever been privileged to share a part in.  As I stare at the immense amount of information, emotion and spiritual implications that I want to communicate with you, I’m quickly realizing that there is too much here for one post. I’ll be breaking it up into three. This first part may be a bit hard to read because of the nature of the terminology. However, knowing the terminology is necessary for the rest of our journey together. Buckle up.

vvfheader

Definitions
Fistula
: A  permanent abnormal passageway between two organs in the body or between an organ and the exterior of the body.

Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF): An abnormal fistulous tract extending between the bladder and the vagina that allows the continuous involuntary discharge of urine into the vaginal vault.

Causes
Childbirth: It is often caused by childbirth (in which case it is known as an obstetric fistula), when a prolonged labor presses the unborn child tightly against the pelvis, cutting off blood flow to the vesicovaginal wall. The affected tissue may necrotize, leaving a hole.

Rape: Vaginal fistulas can also result from violent rape. This injury has become common in some war zones, where rape is used as a weapon against civilian populations.

Consequences
“Some experts suggest that in parts of Africa, as many as 3-4 women develop these fistulas out of every 1,000 births. Others estimate that as many as 2 million women worldwide are living with unrepaired obstetric fistulas. If left unrepaired, obstetric fistulas cause women to constantly leak urine and feces. As a result, they become social outcasts, causing them extreme hardship and psychological trauma.”

In laymans terms, most women with VVF have underdeveloped pelvic bones (mainly because of young age) and cannot birth their children. They concieve, carry their child for nine months and go into labor. After labor that can last up to seven days, they lose their babies. Because of the extreme pressure on their abdomen, the lining between their bladder and vagina tear, leaving a hole. Their urine no longer stays in the bladder as it should, but leaks out into the world and these women cannot control it.

Then they are placed under extreme emotional trauma. First, they smell and can do nothing about it. In some cultures, they are religiously unclean, left with no hope of reconciliation. Second, they are barren. Unable to concieve again, they lose value in their families and communities. Because of these factors, most of these women become outcasts of their societies. In most cases, they are divorced by their husbands. In more extreme case, they are locked up in a room and fed through a hole in the door.

In underdeveloped countries, where vvf is more common due to a lack of heathcare, these women have no hope. There is no hope of saving their children, their marriages, their lives.

Hope is what leads us to part two.

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2 thoughts on “My Favorite Part – The Medical Lesson

  1. Christina – I am looking forward to hearing more about your experience. You have probably seen the PBS documentary, A Walk to Beautiful, which is an eye-opening, touching account of fistula patients in Ethiopia. There is a hospital in Addis Ababa specifically for the treatment of fistula. The women come from all over the country, walking, to receive treatment that will hopefully change their lives. The documentary gives a glimpse how these women become outcasts because of fistula. It’s truly amazing that things like this are continuing to happen. Sad. Anyway, here’s a link to the documentary if you or anyone else is interested…
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/beautiful/program.html. PS – feel free to modify my comment if you don’t want to post the link :)

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