Monday, December 7, 2015

Becoming part of a community

By Rachel Bridge, Global Health Corps Fellow

When we first met Kaudha Nola at a screening before fistula surgery, her eyes and voice told a story of pain and strength. Almost five months ago, Kaudha experienced one of the most painful and emotionally exhausting processes for pregnant women: prolonged labor followed by a stillborn delivery. Kaudha spent hours trying to deliver her third child, but the baby died and the long labor resulted in an obstetric fistula. The condition left Kaudha disempowered and depressed. She became isolated from her community, no longer able to attend church, host guests, or associate with others; Kaudha and her husband even began sleeping in separate beds. Days began to drag on for Kaudha, each one following the same routine of monotony and seclusion.

Kaudha (left) and Loy, UVP's Fistula Coordinator
At the fistula screening Kaudha had a somber strength about her. Over the course of the subsequent camp we witnessed that somberness bloom into hope and, eventually, joy. We visited with Kaudha and her husband, Kiirya Bashir, in the hours before she was taken into surgery. They wore matching shy smiles and seemed surprisingly relaxed. After talking with them it was clear that even before surgery, the camp had already begun to change their lives. This fistula camp gave Kaudha a community of women and caretakers that welcomed her and understood her situation. She and Kiirya spoke with excitement for their future, citing testimonials of successful fistula surgeries and Loy’s support as the sources of their hope. 

We returned to the camp a couple of weeks later to see how clients were recovering. Kaudha and Kiirya were full of warmth and gratitude after a successful surgery and easy recovery. They gushed about Loy’s incredible caretaking and the new life they were excited to begin after discharge.
A few weeks later we followed up with Kaudha at her home. When we reached her village, it took a moment to register that the young, animated woman laughing and waving at us was Kaudha. She was completely transformed: her somber, reserved demeanor replaced with a charismatic, youthful energy. The visit was powerful for so many reasons, but it can be best expressed through Kaudha’s own words.   

“I am so very happy.  I feel like every part of my body is okay now. In the past I would go to the banana plantation with a mat and sit there alone all day and then at night come home and sleep because I didn’t want to associate with people. I even had good clothes and wouldn’t wear them because I feared ruining them. I felt trapped. But even now I can sit anywhere and move around without fear of leaking or smelling or something happening. I go to church, I eat with my friends, I am part of the community again. I feel free.” 

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