Specialty Focus: Women’s Health

4 August 2016
©2016 Mercy Ships
©2016 Mercy Ships

One of the much-needed specialties that Mercy Ships provides is surgery for obstetric fistula (OBF). Women who suffer with this have endured prolonged, obstructed labor which creates an opening between the bladder and vagina, resulting in uncontrollable, continuous leakage of urine and sometimes stool.

In most cases, because the labor goes on for multiple days, their babies often die in the birth canal and so not only do these women grieve the loss of their newborns, they are also often deserted by their husbands and shunned in their communities due to the leakage and odor. The emotional toll is heavy. And when women like Florine and Fanjaleky come to the ship, they feel dejected and distraught from so much loss. In her own words, she explains, “Every day was really sad, and I worried that I would die. I was scared.” Fortunately Mercy Ships offers both the surgery and the emotional support for these women to rise up out of sadness and find their sense of purpose and joy. OBF surgery, in most cases, stops the leakage and enables them to live normal lives again. To see their smiles where there was once only sadness and despair is a truly lovely thing.

Photo Credit Justine Forrest, VVF Dress Ceremony preparationsFlorine’s Sadness Transformed

To listen to Florine tell her story is heart-wrenching. Behind the lovely smile, there lies a lot of loss. At the age of 39 she shares a history of six failed pregnancies- two miscarriages and four babies that died at childbirth. Having struggled with these losses and the difficult challenges of an obstetric fistula for 25 years, it is no wonder that this sweet woman walked five days from her village to the capital city in the center of Madagascar in search of Mercy Ships. When she arrived only to find that the Africa Mercy was not there, she tried to raise money to get back home and contracted malaria in the process. Were it not for the kindness of a local villager who took her in and helped get her to where the Africa Mercy was docked, Florine may never have found us. On the ship she received the help and support she needed and while initially the surgeons were concerned that her surgery may not be successful, afterward they reported that it went quite well and Florine’s smile has never been brighter.

Hoanaky’s Healing

MGC160725_FANJAKELY_SIDE_BY_SIDE_WEEKLY_SCOOP_LO_RESHoanaky was in labor for four agonizing days in her Malagasy village. Her prolonged, obstructed delivery resulted in the loss of her baby and an injury that would leave her permanently incontinent at age 26. Isolated, ashamed, and afraid, she stayed close to her mother until eventually they heard about a Mercy Ships fistula clinic. Through surgery and the support of many of our medical staff, Hoanaky found a place to heal both emotionally and physically. We celebrate her and many other women who courageously come to the ship and work through the healing process to find hope on the other side.

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