Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Catherine's Gift

I just finished reading Catherine's Gift: Stories of Hope from the Hospital by the River (2010) by John Little.  The Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia was founded by Catherine and Reginald Hamlin in 1959 to heal women suffering from fistulas.  John Little follows the lives of a handful of women who come to the hospital for treatment.  Amazing stories.

Fistulas are holes the are formed during childbirth after days of labor (almost always resulting in stillborn babies) when there is no access to medical care.  These holes constantly ooze and as a result of the smell women with fistulas become outcasts.  Many of them, in an attempt to slow the draining, remain laying down on mats for months or even years--causing their muscles to atrophy.  It is tragic.  It is preventable.  It does not happen here.

Because fistulas occur in remote villages, estimates are difficult, but a good guess it that 100,000 women develop fistulas each year. It is believed that 2 million women are currently living with fistulas. According to this site, "the world capacity to treat fistulas is estimated at 6,500 fistula repair surgeries per year."  Those numbers aren't so good.

Things that stood out to me in this book...
1..  Again, inspired by the power of just a few people to be able to make a difference for so many.  (30,000 women have been treated at the hospital in Addis Ababa over the past 33 years.)

2.  The importance of education and health care.  Having specially trained mid-wives at easily accessible hospitals all over the country would prevent and significantly reduce the incidence of fistulas.

3.  Struck by how blessed I am and how much I take for granted where I live. After a long labor and hours of insane pushing, M was delivered by C-section. What if I lived in a remote village in Africa? The women in this book could be me...

4.  The beauty of the doctors who work at the fistula hospitals and who perform fistula surgeries all over Africa.  They do not do it for money, they do it because of the love of seeing lives transformed through surgery. 

You can go here to get more facts about fistulas.  Or go here to find ways to help.  (For $450.00 you can cover the cost of one woman's surgery and medical care.)

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