Insight

Humiliation, rejection, the lot of women with VVF (1)

Women and girls with Vesicovagina Fistula (VVF) have continued to suffer all manner of ridicule, rejection and humiliation because they leak urine and faeces which often produce offensive odour. But after they are repaired, they become the beautiful brides of their homes, writes UCHENNA INYA

Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF) is a subtype of Female Urogenital Fistula (UGF). VVF is an abnormal fistulous tract extending between the bladder and the vagina that allows the continuous involuntary discharge of urine into the vaginal vault. One of the victims of VVF, Mrs. Fidelia Okocha, a young lady, is from Delta State. In 2018, she had VVF while being delivered of her baby who later died.

She went to a local clinic in the state for the delivery of her baby and was in labour for more than three hours without any doctor attending to her. It was only one ‘nurse’ who was there but Fidelia needed a doctor for a Caesarean Section since she was unable to deliver her baby herself.

She was taken to another hospital where she was delivered of her baby but the baby died in the pro-cess. After the surgery, she developed VVF and started leaking urine and faeces. Efforts were made to repair her but to no avail. She was discharged and returned home but continued leaking urine and faeces. Fidelia’s husband ran away from her since 2018 and has not been seen since then. The woman continued with the sickness without any hope of survival.

She was changing seven clothes daily. She was always carrying a bowl and a pipe connected to the bowl from her vagina along to avoid the faeces and urine dropping on the floor. She became an object of mockery to her people. She stopped attending church and social events including wedding and markets.

It was only her mother who was always carrying her from one place to another in search of solution to her health condition. It was her mother who was always close to her as she was avoided by everybody.

Last month, a woman summoned courage and approached Fidelia. She told Fidelia that there is a hospital in Abakaliki popularly called VVF Centre that specialises in repairing women of the disease.

The woman revealed to the dejected Fidelia that it was at the Abakaliki VVF Centre known as National Obstetric Fistula Centre (NOFIC) which repaired her when she had VVF without collecting a dime and that she is now okay. She told Fidelia to rush to the hospital immediately, assuring her that she will be okay if she goes there. Fidelia doubted the woman. But last month, she later went to the NOFIC, Abakaliki and had a successful surgery which has stopped her from leaking urine and faeces.

Our humiliation, by victims

Narrating her ordeal to our correspondent who interacted with her at the hospital, an elated Fidelia said in 2018, she went into labour. She said: “I was in labour for three hours and my baby refused to come out of my womb. I was in one local hospital and the nurse there was unable to conduct surgery on me and bring out my baby because there was no single doctor in that hospital. I was taken to a private hospital and they did surgery on me. My baby died in the process and I started leaking urine and faeces.

They fixed a pipe inside my vagina because of it. I was in that hospital for one month. After that, they removed the pipe they put in my vagina. I went home and continued leaking urine. “I went for a check-up and the doctor who did the surgery said he could not do anything again about me; that he was tired and did not know what to do again concerning my health condition. He told me that I should go to Abakaliki, Ebonyi State and that the VVF hospital there can handle my case.

“Every day I changed seven clothes because I was seriously leaking urine and faeces. My husband ran away from me since 2018. If I call him on the phone, he will not pick his calls. He later switchedoff his phone completely and his line is not going through again. Since then, it is my mother that carries me from place to place. I first went to the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Asaba for VVF surgery. But they told me that they can’t handle my problem.

They gave me a letter to go to Abakaliki. “Last month, one woman came to me and told me that there is a hospital in Abakaliki called VVF Centre that does VVF surgery very well and that their services are free of charge. She told me that the Abakaliki VVF Centre has repaired her and that I shouldn’t waste any time to go there. Then, that last month, I went to Onitsha and entered a mass transit.

I told the driver that I was going to Abakaliki and I have not been there before, I told him plainly that I didn’t know Abakaliki and he assured me that he will drop me in the hospital which he did. Immediately he dropped me, I entered the hospital. I presented the letter which the FMC Asaba gave me to come to the VVF Centre in Abakaliki. The person I gave the letter to took it to a doctor. After the doctor finished reading the letter, he assured me that I will be okay in Abakaliki VVF Centre.

I was admitted in the hospital. Last month, I had the surgery at the VVF Centre, Abakaliki free of charge and it was successful. I am now okay. I was properly taken care of by the hospital, they feed me well free, took me like their child.”

The case of Chinyere Igwe from Ezza South Local Government Area of Ebonyi State was worse than that of Fidelia. Chinyere was 14 years old in 2009 when she was impregnated by a man who promised to marry her.

But the man dumped her when she developed VVF in the course of delivering her baby. The beautiful woman was later repaired in 2010 at the NOFIC, Abakaliki. After that, another man came again and promised to marry her. She took in for the second man in 2014 and went to a Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA) when it was time to deliver her baby. She developed another VVF and the man dumped her like her first lover.

She became an object of ridicule because of the odour coming from her body as result of the VVF. Whenever she got to a public place, people would chase her out. They would accuse her of causing discomfort for them through her offensive odour. Chinyere was already planning to commit suicide. She had prepared a chemical substance to drink in the middle of the night when she got a text message to directing her to the National Obstetric Fistula Centre, Abakaliki for her second repair. She hurriedly rushed to the hospital and got repaired free of charge like her other colleagues.

The woman also narrated her experiences to our correspondent. She said: “I was 14 years old when I got pregnant for a man who promised to marry me. He took me to Ondo State where we were managing life. When it was time for me to deliver my baby, I suffered an obstructed labour and it resulted to VVF. The man abandoned me and ran away. He later came back to me after being repaired. But another man had come to me and said he wanted to marry me and I agreed to marry him.

“I later became pregnant for the man in 2014. But when it was time for me to deliver my baby, he said I must deliver in the hands of Traditional Birth Attendant. I told him my experience in my first pregnancy and how I suffered VVF which I wouldn’t want to suffer again. But he insisted I must deliver my baby in the hands of the Traditional Birth Attendant. “We met the Traditional Birth Attendant.

But in the process of delivering the baby, I suffered another obstructed labour which resulted to another VVF. Seeing my condition, the man said he could no longer marry me. He asked me to leave his house. I returned to my father in the village who couldn’t take care of me because my mother died in 2014 and my father was very poor. It was so difficult for me to cope with life and the most painful thing is that the disease made people to run away from me. “Everywhere I go to people will be making mockery of me because of the odour from my body as a result of the VVF.

Others will be quarrelling with me that I was causing discomfort for them so I should leave where they are. It became so terrible for me that I have to decide to take away my life. “I prepared insecticide used in killing mosquitoes to drink when a voice from outside called my name and told me not to try it. I went outside and looked around but did not see anybody. Then in the night, I got a text message on my phone directing me to come to the National Obstetric Fistula Centre, Abakaliki.

I came here and was repaired. “I want to use this opportunity to tell people that seeing a beautiful woman like me should not make them believe that all is well and the person is healthy because in those days of my sickness, you hardly believe that I am not healthy except when you come close to me and perceive the odour from my body which will even annoy you and make you isolate yourself from me.

But today, I thank God for everything.” Another woman, Onyinyechi Ogadimma, a native of Owerri in Imo State was abandoned by her husband when she developed a Recto- Vaginal Fistula (RVF) and VVF. RVF is produced only in the most prolonged episodes of obstruction and is usually associated with a severe VVF and neurological damage.

Onyinyechi got married in 2011. She was hale and hearty before she developed RVF and VVF while delivering her baby. The baby died in the process and she also had colostomy. A colostomy is an opening in the large intestine, or the surgical procedure that creates one. The opening is formed by drawing the healthy end of the colon through an incision in the anterior abdominal wall and suturing it into place. Onyinyechi went for surgeries because of the colostomy. Her intestine which pulled out of her stomach was pushed in by doctors.

After the colostomy surgeries, she developed hernia at the two sides of the stomach. A look at her will make one feels that Onyinyechi is pregnant but when she raises her cloth, one will shed tears for her.

She has gone to almost all the major hospitals in Imo State for solution to her health issues but to no avail. At the FMC, Owerri, she spent about N1 million as hospital bill apart from the money she used to procure all the drugs doctors prescribed for her. After doing the much they could, the doctors referred her to more major hospitals within Imo and outside the state for more surgeries.

But no one is asking her how she was feeling let alone supporting her financially to undergo the surgeries and remain alive. Her husband had already dumped her, married another wife and raised three children while her relatives, who have been supporting her, are no longer doing so apparently because of lack of money or the belief that Onyinyechi could not survive the ailments. Onyinyechi was at NOFIC, Abakaliki, this month to undergo VVF and hernia surgeries but she was told that they can’t handle her case and referred her to a hospital in Jos, Plateau State.

The lady, who is always smiling despite her life-threatening condition, became disappointed especially seeing about 100 women who had VVF and were repaired successfully and were also undergoing training at the NOFIC for their rehabilitation. While her colleagues were undergoing the training, Onyinyechi was not interested because she has not been repaired. She was wandering within the hospital, looking dejected.

Our correspondent spotted her and approached her where she was sharing her life experiences as a result of her sickness to one of her colleagues who was repaired. After the interaction with her colleague, our correspondent pleaded with her to grant him an interview but she refused.

She told our correspondent that she hates anything about man and that she has resolved not to do anything in life with any man for whatsoever reason. According to her, she longer needs any man to come close to her because “men are wicked and full of disappointments,” having been dumped by her husband when he should show her love because of her predicament.

Onyinyechi maintained that it was because of a man that she finds herself in her present condition and lamented that she wouldn’t have been in the condition if she did not get married. She immediately walked out on our correspondent.

The correspondent trailed her to another corner in the hospital she went and stayed and started convincing her on the need to speak up on her condition. After over one hour of pleading, she decided to open up and pleaded that her face should not be shown in any publication by the journalist. She took the correspondent to a silent place in the hospital where she narrated her ordeal. But while going to the quiet place for the interview, one of the staff of the hospital who is from Imo State and who saw her speak with the correspondent called her inside her office and had interaction with Onyinyechi for about 20 minutes.

The official, who is the HOD of Social Department of the NOFIC, later called the correspondent inside her office after speaking with Onyinyechi. She asked our correspondent his interest in the lady’s condition and after the journalist’s explanation which she liked she encouraged Onyinyechi to grant the interview. Onyinyechi then opened up and it was a tale of sorrow. She lamented how she was treated in her marriage as her husband dumped her because of her aliments, when she needed love most.

She said she needed over N500,000 for the remaining surgeries which doctors said she should undergo and that she was handicapped because nobody is assisting her. She said: “I got married in 2011 and since then, I have been having a series of health challenges. I started having the problem when I was in labour after being pregnant. I have been moving from one hospital to another across the country because of my health problems.

TO BE CONTINUED

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