Kisii Fistula Camp, Kenya

Joan has four children and is currently separated from her husband of eight years. They have a rocky marriage separating from time to time. During their marriage, her husband has married two other women.

Fistula patients tend to have lower socioeconomic status and have less education than patients without fistula; however Joan’s story is different.

I trained for one year (in Tanzania) to become nursing aid. I own a small chemist shop and carry out minor clinical work in Keroka, about an hour drive from Kisii town. I gave birth in the hospital to my first three children without any complication.

During her fourth pregnancy last year, her labor progressed too fast, before she could go to hospital, so she delivered on her own at home and ended up with RVF (stool leaks uncontrollably).

I did not know what to do, when I went in a close hospital, they told me I could get treatment in Kenyatta national hospital. I didn’t know anybody in Kenyatta and I would not manage to get treatment, so I sat back. I don’t shower anymore, why should I? I don’t have anywhere to go anyway. The smell makes it impossible to socialize with anyone. It has been almost impossible to do business, I have to take care of my children. I have never told my children about this they would be so worried about me.

One of the different characteristic of Joan is that she is very enterprising, probably due to her educational background and her supportive extended family. For her, the cost of the surgery is not so much of an issue, but finding good doctors is.
I feel encouraged to see women from this region who are suffering from the same condition but have managed to maintain personal hygiene, and look healthy despite their condition. In particular, there is one who came carrying a suitcase to hospital and a trouser suit; I couldn’t believe she is an RVF patient like me. I am really going to buy nice clothing for myself and keep my spirit up after this.
By the time of discharge, Joan’s RVF treatment was successful and she has never been happier, she said.

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