Lucia is a bubbly 18-year-old woman from Zimbabwe who, until recently, suffered from the devastating effects of fistula. Lucia belongs to a religious sect that encourages child marriage and prohibits congregants from accessing medical care. She was married at age 15, and soon became pregnant.
When the time came to deliver her baby, church elders—older women with minimal training in obstetric care—looked after her. Their assistance was woefully inadequate. Lucia suffered through a days-long birth, and her child died two days after delivery. A day later, she noticed that she could not hold her urine. She was then bedridden for almost two months. “I lost so much weight, and couldn’t use the toilet. I would just soil myself all the time,” she said.
Lucia couldn’t take it anymore. Despite her religion’s strict rules about medical care, she reached out to a woman who had been successfully treated for fistula. With help from that woman, Lucia learned about a free outreach effort that our partner Artemedis Zimbabwe would soon be hosting. Lucia traveled about 580 kilometers (360 miles) to reach a treatment camp, where she underwent successful fistula repair surgery. “My husband supported the idea of me coming here [for treatment],” Lucia said. “Although we will face repercussions from the church, I will be okay. Being soaked all the time and smelling is not easy.”
Lucia was in good spirits when she left the treatment camp, and even cracked a joke about re-entering her community. “When I return home, I wish I could walk around wearing panties to show people that I am healed,” she said, while smiling and laughing.
Published on November 15, 2023