“I went into labor around 4:00PM and the pain did not stop the whole night. When the baby refused to come out, the traditional birth attendant said she could not help me and said we should go to the hospital.” For safety reasons, the women delayed their travel until morning. The next day, “I was put on a bed and carried by four men all the way to Mpanda. It was a long walk and by the time we got to the health center, I was unconscious. My mother was told that my uterus had ruptured and I was taken to the theatre. The baby was dead.”
When Stella Vitari regained consciousness, “I found myself lying in a pool of liquid. I realized it was urine. The doctor told me that something had gone wrong during labor and that I could only be treated at one of the regional hospitals.” For Stella, a resident of Kakesa Bugani Village in Tanzania’s Mpanda District, the news was devastating. She did not have the money to afford travel to either hospital, let alone reconstructive surgery.
When her husband arrived to collect Stella after the ordeal, her mother informed him of Stella’s new condition. He responded that he would leave town to find money to pay for the surgery. “That was the last I saw of him,” says Stella, “later I heard that he had married another woman.”
Stella’s sympathetic younger sister “built a hut for me and my children in her compound.” For seven years, she reports, “I would spend most of my time sitting on a pile of rags to catch the urine. I always had painful sores on my thighs and buttocks.” She was excluded from social and religious gatherings; only her closest friends would visit her.
“Then one day last month,” Stella tells us while in an AMREF recovery ward, “a teacher from a nearby school heard that doctors were coming to Sumbawanga Hospital to treat women with problems like mine.”
One day after Stella’s surgery to repair her fistula she is in high spirits: “You have no idea how excited I am because when I go back home I will be able to do all the things that I have not been able to do. I will not have to sit in the house all the time. I am so grateful because I have been given back my life.”
AMREF’s Flying Doctors conduct specialized surgical operations and trainings across Africa to address debilitating health conditions like obstetric fistulae.