Fistula can have a devastating impact on a woman’s life. Not only are the patients at Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia suffering the devastation of having had a stillbirth and experienced a traumatic injury, in many cases women are then divorced by their husbands, abandoned by their families and even outcast by their communities.
Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia provides women with surgery from world-class fistula surgeons, but just as importantly provides compassionate care and a structured programme of rehabilitation to get their lives back.
Opened in 2002, Desta Mender (meaning ‘Joy Village’) is a farm and training facility where longer-term fistula patients are provided with a counselling and skills training programme that is individually tailored to each woman.
Fetenech’s smile is radiating, however, her story is not without tragedy. Fetenech was just a teenager when she suffered complications while giving birth in her remote village in Changi, 600kms from Addis Ababa. For three days she experienced unimaginable pain with an obstructed labour. Tragically, her baby was stillborn.
As she mourned, the full extent of Fetenech’s injuries were revealed: she had suffered a double fistula. Her fistulas caused her to become incontinent of both urine and faeces. Not only was the condition debilitating and uncomfortable, it also caused Fetenech embarrassment and social isolation.
For seven years, Fetenech’s life was defined by her fistula injuries. A turning point came when she arrived at Hamlin’s regional hospital in Bahir Dar and was referred to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital where she had surgery was cured.
After her successful surgery, Fetenech went to Desta Mender for rehabilitative care. As part of her rehabilitation, she received business skills training. Learning how to manage a business and manage orders gave her the tools she needed to start her own venture – a cafe.
Fetenech has been running her coffee shop for five years now. She is engaged with her customers and business is prospering. Moreover, Fetenech herself is thriving: independent, her life is no longer defined by fistula.
“I am born again and want to focus on my bright future ahead”