“My mother gave me a second life, and so now, I just have to dance!” Padma Thapa, age 65, began to dance and twirl, laughing as she threw her arms around Dr. Shirley Heywood, her “mother,” who gave her a second chance at life after repairing her obstetric fistula.
Padma is a resilient Nepalese woman who lived with fistula for forty years. She developed the injury after giving birth at home—in the 1970s, there simply were no rural healthcare services to help her. Padma’s husband, Sahabir, stayed with her even though they were never able to have children—a deeply stigmatizing situation in their rural society.
Padma successfully hid the injury for four decades, and never sought help. In 2014, she was invited to an overnight women’s meeting at her church. She refused, fearing that her friends would discover her secret. Finally, Padma confessed to a community health worker who had been trained by International Nepal Fellowship, Fistula Foundation’s partner in Nepal. The health worker recognized her condition, and referred her to the hospital for treatment.
Padma traveled a long distance for her first surgery, but the procedure failed. She was shattered, and nearly gave up hope. After four more years of incontinence, Padma decided to try again. In January 2018, Dr. Shirley performed her second fistula repair surgery—and this time, Padma was completely healed!
“I am so happy, happy, happy! And I am very fine now,” Padma said, clapping and hugging Dr. Shirley. “I have a second life. I am so thankful to Dr. Shirley, and so thankful to my husband who stood by me.”