On Monday January 17 , 2011, more than 24 surgeons from the United States of America and Canada arrived in Rwanda to operate on women suffering from Obstetric fistula (a condition that results from prolonged or obstructed labour while giving birth).
The two-week programme will see 40 - 60 Obstetric fistula patients operated from , Kibagabaga Hospital, Central University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK) and Kanombe Hospital.
Dr. Timothy McKinney, Chief of reconstructive surgery in the United States of America has spent 10 years performing surgeries in the different parts of the world.
He explained that, Obstetric fistula is a complication that results from failed labour and as a result of the baby’s head getting trapped in the pelvis structure during birth.”
“This force during labour exerts pressure on the pelvic bones causing the underlying tissues to lose blood supply hence it dissolves and forms holes. So we are dealing with the trauma of child bearing,” he added.
Anestine Musabimana, 36 years, a resident of Nyagasambu village, Fumbwe Sector of Rwamagana District in the Eastern Province of Rwanda has suffered from Obstetric fistula for a decade. She missed the first phase of the surgery in October 2010, (she had given birth three weeks earlier) because doctors had said the process would affect the baby since she had to breastfeed.
However, her hope for a dignified life was restored because she was among the 60 women who had come to receive surgery and treatment from the devastating disease from Kibagabaga Hospital.
“I started having complications in 2000 after the birth of my first child which happened in the car while on my way to hospital; unfortunately I lost my child three months later,” Musabimana said.
Musabimana said that she passed wind uncontrollably and had no control over the waste that left her body. The result was a shameful and nasty odor that sentenced her to spending four years inside her house unless the need to go to the hospital arose.
She said that when she goes to the market people smelled the nasty odor and covered their noses; to avoid embarrassment, she pretended to do the same so that she was not identified from the crowd.
“I have given birth to four children while suffering from the disease and my youngest is three months old. My stomach would swell and when I’m pregnant I feel a wide opening in between my legs. Labour pains lasted a few hours; if I went into labour at 3:00 p.m, I would give birth at 6:00 p.m,” said Musabimana.
Several women have been abandoned by their husbands as soon as they learnt that they suffer from Obstetric fistula. Fortunately, Musabimana’s husband has stayed with her regardless her situation.
“My husband said he couldn’t abandon when I contracted the disease after our first child. I always feel bad when he tells me to sit and share lunch or dinner at the same table, even when the farting and the nasty odor is uncontrollable,” she said.
“He didn’t change from his role as a father and I think that’s why I have conceived in the shortest time possible. However, when I’m given medication he respects that, for example there was this one time when he had to wait for four months without having any kind of sexual contact until my medication had elapsed—he was patient,” Musabimana explained.
Dr McKinney said that Musabimana’s condition is a result of suffering trauma to the support structures as well as a tear that left a hole in her rectal side.
“These fistulas were communications between the bladder and the vagina which is called vesicovaginal fistula, where as the bottom one has a hole which passes stool (rectal vaginal fistula) that resulted from the stress contents that was caused by child bearing,” Dr. McKinney explained.
Dr. Christian Ntizimira, the Director of Kibagabaga Hospital said that two tents were set up for the operation programme.
“Due to limited rooms, two tents were set up for the Obstetric fistula patients who are to undergo surgery since the most important phase in the healing process is during the post surgery period,” Dr. Ntizimira said, adding that, “Nutrition and hygiene are the key factors for a patient’s healing which explains why they have to be supervised.”
To avoid any kind of complications, the patients are to stay at the hospital until they fully recover for a period of at least three months.