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
“I went into labour at the Holy Rosary, Emekuku and I was referred to the FMC, Owerri. So, when the baby was trying to come out of my womb, they used something and brought the baby out. In the process of bringing the baby out, they damaged everything in my private parts and I developed VVF.
In the last nine years, I have been moving from one hospital to another for repair but to no avail. “Since then, I have done more than 10 surgeries and I still have the health problems till now.
I have colostomy; that is, defecating through the tummy. It was just last year that it was reversed to normal place but I am still leaking urine. “In the process doing the surgery because of the colostomy I had, I developed what they call inguinal hernia.
It is another surgery that they want to do me. I was referred to a hospital outside the country for the surgery but no money to do it. My relatives who have been helping me said they are all tired.
I was doing a business before but it has folded up. “Here in National Obstetric Fistula Centre (NOFIC), Abakaliki where I was referred to for VVF repair, they have told me that they can’t handle my problem and they referred me to a hospital in Jos, Plateau State for more surgeries but I don’t have money. My people who have been assisting me are now broke, they have spent a lot and they are tired.
I am begging government at all levels, public-spirited individuals, corporate bodies, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to support me with whatever token so that I will be myself again and become a human being. “I thank God for keeping me alive. I have passed through hell and He has been faithful to me. Last year when they did colostomy surgery on me, I was in the FMC, Owerri for eight months.
They did three major surgeries on me last year with the colostomy surgery and I was later put at Intensive Care Unit (ICU). In the process of the surgeries, calollar broke on my hand. “I am now like a physically-challenged person because of my health problems.
I was not born like this. I have this leg problem after delivering my baby that resulted in this VVF I am passing through. Doctors at the Physiotherapy Unit of FMC, Owerri have been managing it for nine9 years but no results. When I came to NOFIC, Abakaliki, doctors and nurses continued from where the FMC stopped, yet my leg is not okay. “I called one of the doctors here and asked him what could be done for my leg to be the way it was.
The doctor told me the leg may not be okay, that the leg may be like this forever. The doctor said the veins in the leg have twisted; they have become very weak. I need serious prayers so that God will deliver me in all these problems. I need prayers for me to get money to enable me to undergo all these surgeries they said I should do. I am very handicapped. “In all these, God kept me alive and that is why I am always happy despite my terrible condition.
There were many people who had this type of problem but they all died; they didn’t survive. Since November 5, 2011 I went to FMC, Owerri where they brought out the baby from my womb and I was discharged, my husband left me and married another wife.
I became an object of ridicule to my husband because of my health condition. He abandoned me and married another woman. He has married another wife and they have children. My husband no longer asks of me.
I have left everything to God who rewards.” Onyinyechi has returned to her Owerri hometown. She told our correspondent that she decided to go home since she had no money to undergo the surgeries recommended for her and called on public-spirited individuals, corporate bodies, NGOs and government at all levels to come to her aid. For Helen Dike from Rivers State, coming out of her house was difficult for her because of the embarrassment, intimidation and public ridicule she was always receiving from people. She was among those repaired in the last two years by NOFIC, Abakaliki.
Helen told our correspondent that her case was so serious that she became an object of ridicule by her neighbours who were avoiding her because of the offensive odour emanating from her body. She said: “I suffered a lot because of this sickness.
People stigmatised me a lot. In our yard, people used all manners of bad word on me. Even a medical doctor, who also lived with us in the same compound, said one day that ‘whoever that knows that she is the one smelling very bad here should be ready to leave the compound’. I was forced to enter my house and I started crying. I wept all through the 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 manners of insult from my neighbours.” Mrs. Grace Nwiboko from Ebonyi State also had her own ugly experience because of VVF. She started suffering VVF during labour for her first pregnancy. During the child delivery, her bladder was damaged while the child died. She developed VVF which prevented her from becoming pregnant again. Grace and her husband continued to live in peace and were waiting for divine intervention for another fruit of the womb.
While waiting, she continued suffering VVF. She later made up her mind to seek solution to her health condition when she heard about NOFIC, Abakaliki, where women with such ailment are repaired free of charge. She relayed the information to her husband who opposed it. Grace insisted that she must be repaired of the VVF and went to the hospital for repair.
The woman was successfully repaired but went blind after the repair. In anger, her husband sent her out of his house for disobeying him by going for the VVF repair which he believed might have led to her sudden blindness. She said: “I started suffering VVF when I was delivering my first child. My child later died and it is the only child I gave birth to. Since then, I have been suffering from the disease.
My husband has been very understanding; he said he could not marry another woman because of our difficulty in having children. “It was pretty difficult living with the disease so I resolved that I must undergo repair when I got the information that I would be treated of the disease.
It was very difficult to get a hospital that can treat this type of sickness. “So, I decided that I must go to the hospital in Abakaliki where they treat the sickness. I resolved to meet my husband to intimate him on this but he vehemently opposed my decision but I insisted I must go for the treatment. “I went for the treatment and was repaired successfully free of charge.
Shortly after the repair, I went blind. Because of this, my husband said I must park out of his house because he had advised me not to go for the treatment.” Mrs. Felicia Odo, a native of Ohaukwu, Ebonyi State was full of joy after she was repaired. She was among the about 100 women repaired in pool-effort repair campaign of the hospital co-sponsored by wife of Ebonyi State governor, Mrs. Rachael Umahi, UNFPA, Gender Unit of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs Fistula Foundation and the NOFIC, Abakaliki. A total of 63 patients were repaired during the pool-effort repair campaign at the hospital which took place between August 24 and August 28, 2020.
The patients spread across 11 states. The breakdown of the repairs shows that 20 of them came from Ebonyi State, Enugu had 12, Imo (11), Abia (seven), Rivers (three), Delta (three), Cross River (two), Kogi (two), while Anambra, Edo and Lagos had one each. Felicia expressed joy for being repaired. She said: “My problem started when during labour and I went to Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA). I was unable to deliver my baby there and the TBA referred me to another place but there was nobody there.
I waited till the person they called doctor there came in and did surgery on me. After the surgery, I started having problems and I have been moving from one hospital to the other without succeeding. “I was thinking of how to survive this health problem when somebody told me that there is a place called VVF centre in Abakaliki and that everything, including surgery, is done free there. I didn’t believe it.
“One day, I summoned courage and came to this hospital. I had a free surgery and regained myself. I stopped leaking urine and faeces after the surgery. The surgery was free, feeding free, my training and rehabilitation free, every other thing free. I am now okay and I am very grateful to the doctors and nurses who God used to heal me.”
Avoid sex, quacks, medical director tells repaired women The women were advised to abstain from sex for six months especially now they have been repaired and their husbands who dumped them may come back to them. The Medical Director (MD) of NOFIC, Abakaliki, Prof. Johnson Obuna, warned that if they start having sex without waiting for six months, the ailment will relapse. He also warned them against patronising quacks whenever they have health issues. Obuna gave the warning while addressing the repaired 63 VVF patients. He said: “For the repaired patients, the management and staff of NOFIC want to join to share in your joy. But we want you to abstain from sex for six good months.
As you go now, you are going to rejoin your family members and there will be no more smell of urine and faeces in your houses. You can now attend those village meetings they were telling you not to attend, you can attend now. You can attend markets and churches without anybody harassing you. So, we implore you to adhere to all the instructions and pieces of advice you have been given to since you have been coming here and may I remind you those pieces of advice? Number one, please, you know you are looking more beautiful now after your repairs and your husbands have been running away when you were suffering this ailment.
“Your husband will want to jump on you now to do ‘shuku shuku’. No sex for the next six months. Before you even reach home, if you have phone, call your husband and say ‘darling, I am not available for sex for the next six months’.
If you allow your husband to meet you, he will tear all our good jobs on you which have stopped you from leaking urine and faeces and you will start leaking urine and faeces again. “Another instruction you must adhere to is that you will never be pregnant for the next one year; please avoid being pregnant for the next one year. After one year if you are free to get pregnant, once you miss your period, run to this hospital and know that you are pregnant. We will book you and take care of you; both your antenatal and delivery, we are here for you. From now till the day God wants you to die, don’t patronise quacks.
When you have anything that bothers you, go to hospital, and don’t patronise quacks at all. “Here at the National Obstetric Fistula Centre, we also offer cancer screening; cervical cancer, prostate cancer and breasts cancer. We also offer free family planning services to all the repaired fistula patients. “The services are also available to other general members of the general public at a little token. But for the repaired patients, the services are free.
So, members of the general public are encouraged to take advantage of all these services that are available; our services are excellent. Our staff are dedicated and we treat people as human beings. “When we started maternity services, we didn’t have enough nurses, we didn’t have enough doctors.
We just said can anyone just volunteer to help us because I have not got waiver to employ? So, doctors and nurses came and started offering free services here. There are about 22 nurses who are giving us their services free and we are not paying them salaries. There are also about 12 doctors who are offering their services free and we are not paying them anything. This is the type of goodwill that we enjoy here.” The medical director lamented that most of the equipment used in the repair of the fistula patients had all broken down which he said was hampering the services of the hospital.
He added: “There are things we need in this hospital to continue offering our services to patients and I will not stop asking for them; we need beds. We carried all the beds in the antenatal and postnatal wards to make sure that these VVF patients have beds. So, we don’t have beds again in the antenatal and postnatal wards. We also need children and adult beds, we need ventilators.
The last time we had emergency that required ventilators and ICU, we had to carry the patient to the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki (FETHA) to take care of the patient because we don’t have ventilators and if we can get it, it will help us. We need patients’ monitors.
“When we are doing surgery, we need to monitor them very well because we put some of them to sleep and we need to monitor them. We need vehicles, ambulances, and staff bus. We also need Hilux vans and solar inverter. We spend a lot of money to on our generator because of the type of electricity distribution company is giving us. We need rehabilitation building where we can stay, train and rehabilitate these women after repairing them. We also need a maternity complex. “Just about three months ago, our x-ray machine, our ultra-sound and mammogram machines broke down. The mammogram is the only one in the state and we use it for breast examination to know those who have breast cancer or not. It is the only one in the state and it has broken down. We don’t have money and they are charging us N10 million to put it in order. We repaired our x-ray and it broke down again. There are some of these women who require x-ray because one of the complications of fistula is chest infection; they can have tuberculosis (TB). Before we operate these women, we need to do x-ray and we don’t have money. If you send them outside to do it, they will not pay and again they won’t carry urine and be smelling outside looking for where to do x-ray. We really need x-ray machine.” Some of Obuna addressing the repaired patients the repaired VVF patients Some of Obuna addressing the repaired patients the repaired VVF patients