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Meet Betty from Zambia

Betty labored at home for two days before she realized something was terribly wrong with her labor. To reach the nearest hospital, she traveled from her island by boat for three hours. Her baby did not survive, and Betty was left with obstetric fistula.

Back in 2010, Betty Mazimbi started going into labor in her home village of Tongwa in Mpulungu district. She was in labor at home for two days because there was no clinic or hospital nearby. When she realized she wouldn’t be able to deliver, she was transported to a boat, as Togwa is an island, and someone paddled her for three hours to get her to a hospital. 

Once at Mbala Hospital, Betty, 26, stayed for another two days, but still was unable to deliver. The doctors at the hospital even cut through her vagina in an effort to deliver the baby. The baby was delivered but he had already died. She said she was in so much pain that she didn’t even get to see the baby and remembers very little from that time period – whether the baby was big or small or any of its features. 

After the baby was born, she developed fistula. Like many women, the condition led to isolation and Betty’s first husband left her, though she had since remarried. 

She learned about the Fistula Foundation through a local woman who knew about fistula and the foundation thanks to the Fistula Foundation’s outreach efforts via a local radio programs. The woman shared the information with Betty and soon she was in communication with the foundation. When it was confirmed she had fistula, she traveled by boat once again to Mpulungu. She then got the bus ticket covered to come to Mpika for life-changing surgery. 

She was among more than 30 women who the Fistula Foundation operated on during a weeklong surgical outreach at Chilonga Mission Hospital in Mpika 

Betty says fistula is a very sad situation. She has to find ways to clean her pads, and sometimes she even had to wear a diaper to keep the urine and feces from flowing. If not, the urine will just leak, she said. Betty has one other child. 

She found herself isolated because of the ailment, so she’s very thankful she’s getting treatment with the Fistula Foundation. 

This story was written by Kristi Eaton in 2018 for Fistula Foundation’s Writer in Residence program. 

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