Excitement about the pregnancy
18 year old Merina regularly went to the small local health center in her village in Central Tanzania. She was pregnant for the first time. “My husband and I were really excited about having a baby,” Merina says – and adds: “We are simple peasant farmers and live in a small hut. We grow vegetables, mainly for our own consumption. To have children must be wonderful. The doctor at our health center was very optimistic. I went for a check-up once a month. He said that everything looked well and that I could confidently deliver the child here in the village.”
The beginning of my nightmare
In January 2014 Merina’s labor pain set in. “It was around 8 in the evening. First it was not too painful. I stayed at home. Only on the next morning my husband took me to our health center. However, the doctor was not there, just a nurse. It was a Sunday. I stayed at the hospital the whole day. I was in really great pain by then, but nothing happened. I couldn’t feel my child moving. The nurse just stood by. I couldn’t even get up anymore …”
When the doctor didn’t show up, the nurse finally called a traditional healer and birth attendant on the next morning. She prepared a tea from local plants to increase Merina’s labor. “But it didn’t help,” Merina says. When the doctor didn’t show up, it was decided to take the young woman to the next bigger town. “It was dark outside. The villagers took me across the hill on a wooden bed. There is no road in our village. It takes about four hours to reach the main road. I fell from the bed twice on the way there. At the main road we waited for a bus that always passes by at about 2 am. By that time I didn’t feel pain any longer, I just felt my full womb. My baby had not moved again. I had stopped thinking …
The bus arrived hours later. The villagers helped me onto the bus. Four hours later we reached the District Hospital …” There Merina was examined and taken to the theatre immediately. The doctors conducted a caesarean section. “Afterwards they told me that I had lost my baby boy who had weighed 3,7 kilos. I was so sad,” Merina whispers. “I would have named him Edwin …”
Merina stayed at the hospital for two weeks. “When they removed the catheter the doctors saw that I had a fistula. But still they sent me home and told me to come back after three months when the wound of the caesarean section had healed completely. I could stay at the house of a friend close to the hospital and went to a local clinic to have the dressings changed. My mother was with me all the time. My husband, too, took care of me. During that time I constantly dripped urine. It was worst when I lay in bed. I also had a strong pain in my leg. I couldn’t do anything.
My mother looked after me. I was very sad. All my former joy had disappeared. Who was I? A woman? I couldn’t do anything, I lost urine and I smelled bad. I was so ashamed. I had lost my baby. In those days I didn’t have any hope … I didn’t want to see anyone, I retreated from everyday life. The doctors told me that I had a fistula, however I am not sure if they told me that it could be healed. But even if they had, I wouldn’t have believed it at that time,” Merina laments.
“Fistula Inatibika!” – “Fistula is treatable!”
When she went back to the hospital three months later, one doctor told her about CCBRT Hospital. He is an ambassador, one of many countrywide, who voluntarily and on behalf of CCBRT find women with fistula to tell them: “Fistula Inatibika!” – “Fistula is treatable!” The doctor then booked Merina into CCBRT Hospital in Dar es Salaam right away. Via mobile money CCBRT send him the amount for Merina’s bus ticket.
“I was so happy when I reached CCBRT. There were so many other women. Up to then I had thought I was the only one with that condition. But no, all these women had had similar experiences. I talked to them. Many had lost their baby, too. Those conversations helped me in grieving … After the surgery I am healthy again. I’m the way I used to be. I am so grateful. I now work on the field again, growing beans and maize. And I’m continuing with my little business: I sell self-made snacks and a local brew (called “pombe”). I thought that I could never ever do that again. But now … Naturally I miss CCBRT, too. I have learned how to knit, that’s a lot of fun. And I enjoy singing and we sang so much together in the hospital – songs about fistulas and that they can be treated. I sing those songs in my village, too, and teach them to other women.
I want to become a CCBRT Ambassador – to be able to help other women, just like I was helped. “And I have another wish,” Merina says with a smile. “I’d like to have two healthy children with my husband. Because it must be wonderful to have children