–Say, not death sentence
Vesico Vaginal Fistula(VVF) has remained a very painful experience any woman will not like to have despite free repairs the sufferers receive from some hospitals in the country, including National Obstetric Fistula Centre(NOFIC), Abakaliki, Ebonyi state. Our correspondent reports on the emotional and physical traumas the women continue to pass through while battling the ailment.
At the National Obstetric Fistula Centre(NOFIC), Abakaliki, Ebonyi state, one will see some women walking slowly, carrying bowls and elastic pipes that pass through their private parts to the bowl. They look very weak and pitiable. The pipes and bowls ensure they don’t leak urine and feaces.
But within short period of time, they are completely repaired and they return to their strong health condition before they were down with Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF) ailment.
Some of the sufferers suffered all manner of discriminations where they live. Helen Dike who hails from Rivers state was one of the survivors and was among those repaired of the ailment at the centre last two years.
She told our Correspondent that her own case was so serious that she became object of riddicle by her neighbours who were discriminating against her by avoiding her because of the offensive ordour emanating from her body as a result of the sickness.
“I suffered a lot in this sickness because people stigmatized me a lot. In our yard, people used all manner of bad words on me. Even a medical doctor who also lived with us one day said that whoever that
knows that she is the one smelling very bad here should be ready to leave the compound and I entered my house and cried that day. I wept all through that day and I couldn’t come out till the following day.
“I was always in doors because of the disease because whenever I come outside, I will receive all manner of insults from my neighbours”, she said.
At the NOFIC Abakaliki is Nneoma Azubuike, a young beautiful lady from Bende Abia state who had obstructed labour while delivering her baby, the baby is her first child. She had tear while delivering the baby and she developed VVF.
She is among those currently being repaired at the centre and our correspondent interacted with her and some of her colleagues last week and they narrated the pains they passed through.
She said “I came to this hospital because of the problem I had, I was leaking urine seriously after given birth. That baby I gave birth to is my first baby. I had tear in my vaginal and anus after given birth and I started leaking urine and feaces. I had obstructed labour but I have been repaired free of charge here and I pray God to bless the management and staff of this hospital”.
Another patient, Mrs. Ojoago Philips from Kogi state had the same issue; she was also leaking urine repeatedly and passing through severe pains.
She shared her experiences thus ”I am very happy for being repaired successful here. I was in serious pains, I was leaking urine and feaces. I went to some hospitals and I was not treated. I was directed to this NOFIC Abakaliki by someone and I came and got repaired. That time I came for the repair here, the thing was worst. The Doctors and Nurses in this hospital swung into action and I was immediately repaired. I was discharged and I went home.
“Now, I came for a check up and I have been certified free of this disease by the Doctors, I thank for this, the Doctors, Nurses, the Governor of this state and His wife that God has used to repair me”.
At the hospital is also Mrs. Abba Florence from Ebonyi state, a mother of four.
She developed the ailment while given birth to her fourth child. She has however been repaired.
The woman recalled her ordeal thus “I have been repaired, I was leaking urine repeatedly. When I came here, I was operated upon and I am feeling good. I had this problem during while delivering my fourth child, I have four children”.
Mrs. Ali Onyekachi is also from Ebonyi State. She had her own case while given birth to her third child. Her first two children had died and she took in for the third child.
However, while delivering the baby, she had obstructed labour and developed VVF. She was in pains and was leaking urine like every other sufferer before she was repaired.
The woman said “I was in pains before coming to this hospital, I was leaking urine repeatedly after given birth and I came here for treatment. This baby I gave birth to that made me to have this problem is my third child. I have given birth to two children but only this particular one I just gave birth to is alive, the other two are dead. I am happy now because I have been repaired, I am no longer feeling pains and leaking urine. I thank those that God used and restored my health, I am very grateful”.
Medical Director of the hospital, Professor Johnson Obuna identified poor obstetric services as one of the major causes of fistula in women.
Obuna who was speaking during the flag-off of pool-effort fistula repair campaign of the centre organized by Wife of Ebonyi state Governor, Mrs. Rachel Umahi through her pet project, Family Succour and Upliftment Foundation with support from UNFPA noted that many women due to poverty or ignorance on how to access standard obstetric services, resort to quacks or deliver at home .
“One of the major causes of obstetric fistula is poor or default obstetric services. Many women due to poverty or ignorance on how to access standard obstetric services, resort to quacks or deliver at home and therefore come up with obstetric fistula due to absent or poverty supervised labour. Currently, we are observing ugly and worrisome trends where poorly done Cesarean section is increasing becoming the commonest cause of obstetric fistula in our southern region which is not the same in the North.
“In the North, it is obstructed labour because many of their children girls marry early; their pelvis are not yet developed and they have obstructed labour. But here, the people that have fistula in this southern part of the country are people that are 28 years, 80 years and their pelvis have grown. They have four, five children but they didn’t go to a proper place for a Cesarean Section, they go those who don’t know how to do Cesarean Section, they do Cesarean Section poorly and they come up with fistula. The research that we just did shows that about 67% of fistula we have in this part of the world is caused by Cesarean Section.
“We have also observed that some of the successfully repaired and rehabilitated patients who got pregnant again still present with recurrent fistula because they still resorted to quack for delivery of their babies. It is on this backdrop and the need to prevent both primary and recurrent obstetric fistula, that our centre decided to commence maternal services from Tuesday 18th August, 2020.
“This pool-effort is aimed at repairing and rehabilitating about 50 to 100 obstetric fistula patients. It will last throughout this week. The patients are already in the wards and more are coming. The patients came from the 17 southern states and Benue state. Their admission, feeding and surgeries are free.
“It will interest you to also know that apart from this on-going campaign, daily repair of obstetric fistula cases also takes place in this centre. Until Covid-19 disruption of services, activities and movement of which Nigeria and Ebonyi state are included, an average of 15 fistula cases is repaired weekly in this centre. So far from 2008 till date, about 4,000 obstetric fistula patients have been treated free in this centre. We have also operated about 3,000 uterine prolapse cases.
“All fistula repairs here are free. We have the routine repairs which is free and this one we are doing now in group is called pool-efforts and it is also free. In the daily or routine repair, the women just trickle and as they come, we repair them. If one person is around we repair, if two persons are around we repair. We don’t normally keep them long because sometime they come from far; Lagos, Bayelsa, Benue and if we keep them here, we feed them free. So, the more they stay, the more we spend money feeding them. so, when they come we repair them and those ones are called routine repair and it is also free”, Obuna stated.
In her remarks, wife of the state Governor, Mrs. Rachael Umahi who was represented by Special Assistant to Governor Dave Umahi on Welfare, Mrs. Offor Okorie said some cultural practices in the society promotes VVF.
”The fistula patients will not diminish tomorrow as long as we keep having our cultural practices that endangered the lives of women. If you go to our villages, you discover that we have this belief that our women will deliver like the Hebrew women and that is the confidence of an average Igbo woman, she believes that whenever she gets pregnant she will deliver safely. But sometimes, it may not be the case. I was told that if you go to the land of Hebrew, the women also go through Caesarean Section but here, if a women have any complication and you tell her to go through Caesarean Section, she will not agree because she has the believe that God will help her to deliver safely and in the process, she will have this problem of VVF. So, it keeps growing because our culture supports all these practices and because our culture supports it, this place will keep on having many of these challenges that will require the help of the government.
“Today, many women have been repaired of fistula courtesy of what they are doing here in this centre. Her Excellency the wife of the Governor has tried so much in ensuring that these women are alleviated of their pains and they have been given succor. Through her pet projects, she has been attending to the needs of women not only those from Ebonyi state but from the eastern region and today is a demonstration of that. Her Excellency has repaired over 100 of these women and still counting”, she said. ENDS