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When VVF patients found succour in USAID fistula care project
THEY were rejected by the society. Some were even turned down by their own families. While some were sent packing from their matrimonial homes, some are about to be sent out. They are rejected and turned down not because they committed any heinous offence but they are vesico vaginal fistula (VVF) patients
Though rejected, these patients found succour and a hope of new life, a new beginning, which hopefully would give them a break from their traumatic past, in the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Fistula Care Project.
This was the case of the 73 VVF patients who were given free treatment by the international Non-Government Organisation (NGO) which is determined to bring an end to the pains and agonies of VVF patients in Nigeria. The 73 lucky patients were treated in Bauchi State at the VVF Repair Centre at the Ningi General Hospital, Ningi, the headquarters of Ningi Local Government Area of the state.
Vesico vaginal fistula (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. According to medical experts, VVF is often caused by childbirth and violent rape. In the case of childbirth, it is known as an obstetric fistula, when a prolonged labour presses the unborn child tightly against the pelvis, cutting off blood flow to the vesico vaginal wall. The affected tissue may necrotise, leaving a hole.
It can also be associated with hysterectomy, cone biopsy, and female genital mutilation.
The experts noted that the development of a VVF has, aside from its physiological problems for the patient, also often comes along with severe psychological consequences for the patient, as she is embarrassed about her incontinence, and often shunned by the community due to her impairment.
The agency, according to its Deputy Country Director, Dr Isa Adamu, started to offer free treatment to the patients in collaboration with the Bauchi State government in March, this year, when 24 patients underwent repair surgery to correct their condition. Another set of 24 patients were treated in May, while it was the turn of another 25 patients this month. The treatment consists of screening, surgery and post-surgery treat-ment, all at no cost to the patients.
Speaking while conduct-ing journalists round the Ningi VVF Repair Centre, Dr Adamu said the USAID Fistula Care Project ultimate aim was to start routine treatment at the centre instead of patients waiting for every three months that his organisation would come around to carry out free repair treatment, adding that for this to happen, USAID had renovated two wards and a theatre. The renovated wards can accommodate 50 patients at a time.
"What we are doing now is mass repair because we only carry out the operation every three months but we are putting measures in place to commence routine repairs whereby patients can come to the hospital daily for repair.
"The wards we renovated have 50-bed capacity. So, by the time the routine repair commences, we will increase our personnel, including doctors and nurses, in order to render effective services to the patients," Dr Adamu stated.
He commended the Bauchi State government for its collaboration with the agency to assist the patients, saying that the govern-ment made its facilities at the hospital available for USAID to use in carrying out the repair surgeries.
Also speaking, head of the hospital, Dr Mansur Mustapha Dada, commended the USAID Fistula Care Project for bringing succour to the VVF sufferers as well as training staff of the repair centre, supplying consumables for the repair operation and also expressed appreciation to the state government for its support for the project.
He noted that there was the need to increase the personnel on ground, expressing the hope that by the time the VVF repair centre fully takes off later this month, there would be an increment in the number of personnel on ground as then there would be routine repair for patients.
A team of surgeons, made up of the immediate past Commissioner for Health in Zamfara State, Dr Isa Sa'ad, Dr Lawal and an Egyptian surgeon, Dr Atef Ismail were in charge of this month's operation for the patients.
Speaking on his experience since coming to Nigeria, the Egyptian surgeon, Dr Ismail, who said he had been involved in reconstructive surgery since 1989, said that what he was used to was carrying out reconstructive surgery for VVF patients through the abdomen but discovered that the repair was being done here through the vagina.
"The surgeons I met here are very competent and experienced as well. I don't have any language barrier here since English is being spoken. The people here are accommodating and hospitable," Dr Ismail said.
The surgeons noted that most of the patients they handled have had repair operation before, which failed, necessitating a fresh repair. They said that the issue of rehabilitation and reintegration of the patients into the society was a great challenge.
However, they called for the involvement of community leaders as well as religious leaders in the treatment and rehabilitation of the patients after they might have been treated of VVF.
Recounting their traumatic ordeal as a result of their VVF condition, some of the patients who spoke with journalists said their experience was unpleasant, noting that they were being treated as outcasts by the society, which they all belong to. They were full of appreciation to USAID Fistula Care Project for giving them a hope of a better tomorrow.
For 28-year-old A'isha Abdullahi from Filin Shagari in Bauchi Local Government Area of the state, a mother of three, it was an experience she never bargained for in her life. She said her plight started six years ago when she was to give birth to her fourth child, saying that she never experienced it during the birth of her previous three children.
She said, "I can remember vividly that it was as a result of child-birth. It happened when I wanted to give birth to my fourth child and I started to experience prolonged labour at home and was rushed to the hospital in Bauchi where I had a caesarian section.
"I did not attend ante-natal clinic whenever I was pregnant. I gave birth to three children without any problem. So, this convinced me that there was no need for me to go to any hospital."
Her husband, according to her, rejected her as a result of the sickness. This, she said, forced her to relocate to Mararraba Liman Katagun, where she was staying before coming to Ningi to attend the USAID free treatment.
Asked whether her husband had divorced her as a result of her condition, the woman said, "no, he did not divorce me but when I realised that he was maltreating me, I decided to go on my own to my parents because he didn't care about me as a result of this disease." She, however, declared that she was not going back to her husband after she might have got over her problem, saying that she was sure the man would eventually divorce her.
"I will not go back home to him. I will find another man who will marry me. I know he would eventually divorce me because when I was sick, he rejected me," she said, asking rhetorically, "is it now that I am healed of my disease that I will go back to him?"
To her, if the man comes calling, even with all the wealth in this world, "I will say no."
Mrs Elizabeth Ali, a 55-year-old, experienced the condition in January this year. She heard about the free VVF treatment on the radio and gave it a trial, which paid off as she was lucky to undergo repair surgery. She said she gave birth to 11 children from which two had died, leaving her with nine children.
According to her, "I started to experience this since January this year as a result of child-birth. I wanted to give birth to my 11th child then. Out of the 11 children I had, two had died, while nine are still living." But unlike what most women with the same VVF condition experienced, Mrs Ali stated that her husband stood by her at the time she needed his support, saying, "I am still with my husband. There is no problem between us as a result of my health challenges. He is giving me support and comes here to see me."
But 17-year-old Rasheeda is not that lucky to have the support of her husband. According to her, her man abandoned her as soon as her condition began. To add salt upon her injury, the man had even asked her parents to come and pack her belongings from his house as he was ready to marry another wife.
"I have been married before and had one child. It was as a result of giving birth to my child that I experienced this but unfortunately, the child died. I spent one and half day in labour trying to deliver my baby before I was taken to the hospital but they did not attend to me quickly in the hospital.
"I did not attend ante-natal clinic when I was pregnant because my husband did not give me permission to attend, though he did not tell me why. I even reported him to an elderly person at Tsagayan Tudun Wada in Warji Local Government Area where we were living. It was the elder who prevailed on him to allow me to go to a clinic," she told journalists.
Her husband, she said, she was sure would soon divorce her, saying that the man had neither visited her at her parents’ house where she moved to as a result of his rejection nor sent an emissary to her . "He has never come to visit me and he has never sent any one or message to me. There is every indication that he will divorce me," she said.
Asked if she was still interested in staying with her husband if the man comes back to her after her treatment, Rasheeda declared, "no, I will not go back to his house. The love has gone."Share