You got to see a glimpse of the transformation the plastic patients have made, now I get to tell you about the beautiful ladies I have the honor of taking care of! They are the most beautiful, strong, and loving women I know (apart from my own mother of course!) I wish all of you could meet them! They have suffered through childbirth only to deliver a stillborn baby after 3+ days in labor, and then are left with a devastating condition that causes them to leak urine or stool all the time. They are outcasted, shunned, and even left to suffer alone. One woman told us the other day that the people in her village won't let her go to the well to get water because they are afraid she will pass on her condition to them; they throw rocks and sticks at her to keep her away. She has to live in a hut by herself, away from contact from other people just because she smells of urine.
These ladies suffer from Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF), also known as Obstetric Fistula. A term foreign in the developed world, but much too common in Africa. According to VVF surgeon Dr. Lauri Romanzi, who served on the Africa Mercy this year, obstetric fistulas are 100% preventable. In the states we are well aware of the issues with access to medical insurance and affordable medical care, but what if there wasn't access to a hospital for days. For most of these women, the nearest hospital to have a c-section is days away. They either walk, or drum up enough money to get a ride to the nearest hospital, which is usually a day or two after beginning labor, and when they have the okay from their husband or head of the house.
Having surgery to fix the fistulas is an absolute God-send. These women have been suffering 10+ years with their fistulas, and have been on a waiting list since 2010 when the ship was in Togo last. After they have surgery to correct the fistula we give the women dresses to symbolize their new life! Here are some pics of the women, they speak a thousand words...you'll love them, I do.