After almost two hours, Jamira realized that labor had started, but her husband and other family encouraged her to wait until morning to go to the health center. After all, these things can take time.
In addition to the family’s influence, “it was the long distance [to the health center] that kept me from seeking treatment early,” Jamira remembers. Unfortunately, the baby did not survive. Upon discharge from the hospital, Jamira went to her grandmother’s home; Jamira did not want to go back to her husband until she figured out why she was uncontrollably leaking urine. After one month, her grandmother couldn’t take the smell and built Jamira a shack made from banana leaves behind the house. In addition to being isolated, Jamira was in pain. “I pondered on taking poison,” Jamira says as she recalls those dark days 12 years ago.
Jamira’s first flicker of hope happened when her sister-in-law heard one of UVP’s Fistula Ambassadors giving an educational talk at the nearby health center. It wasn’t until Jamira reached Kamuli Mission Hospital and saw all the other women in the same condition that she embraced that hopeful feeling. “Fistula is a treatable and preventable disease, but when you are out there you can’t know that.” Living in a rural area limits the education that women are exposed to, making UVP health outreaches by staff and Fistula Ambassadors some of the only education women receive.“When urine flows, it washes away all the brain and stops you from thinking abroad,” she says.
Despite being shunned for 12 years, Jamira’s spirits are high as she readies herself to leave the hospital to participate in UVP’s reintegration program where she will learn a trade and continue to heal in a supportive environment.
A fistula patient today becomes the Fistula Ambassador of tomorrow. One woman at a time, UVP’s Fistula Ambassadors find those who have been neglected for years, suffering in silence – women like Jamira.
*Jamira’s story is being shared with her permission.
By Loy Tumusiime, Reproductive Health Program Coordinator