Fistula champion, Kenya
Charity Kiarie went through a traumatic experience in the hands of qualified medical practitioners.

A lady who suffered fistula in a high-level medical facility when giving birth to her daughter does not wish any woman the pain she had to live with, and the constant poop leaks embarrassments.


Charity Kiarie, now in her 30s, was excited and looking forward to holding her bundle of joy, breastfeed, wean her on solids and bounce back to her daily hustle.


Unfortunately, the self-made entrepreneur who deals in African fabrics, accessories and jewelry, Ms. Kiarie was not ready for the traumatic ordeal that followed, clouding her anticipated joy of being called a mother.


Six days after giving birth, Ms. Kiarie was diagnosed with recto-vaginal fistula – bowel contents were leaking through the fistula (hole) allowing gas and stool to pass through the vagina.


During delivery, an injury occurred that caused an abnormal connection between the lower portion of the large intestine, rectum, and vagina leading to leaks of waste.


Ms. Kiarie had remotely heard about fistula, and largely the condition was associated with women living in the rural areas where there was a lack of proper medical facilities.


However, she was a middle-income earning, educated young woman and had gone to give birth in a full-fledged hospital but was now part of the statistics of women suffering from fistula.


Ms. Kiarie has undergone one surgery to correct the fistula, and though a second was recommended, she is unsure of undergoing another major medical procedure.


She speaks more about her ordeal through a question & answer session with Reporter Anne Gathuna:

A fierce African queen
Charity Kiarie is a fighter and fierce African queen.

Q: Did you use any traditional medicine or practices during the prenatal period?

A: No, I didn’t. I was extremely careful when carrying my precious baby throughout the pregnancy and doctors monitored me closely especially because since the first trimester, and specifically the second month (seven weeks) of pregnancy, I almost suffered a miscarriage.


Q: Do you blame the hospital for negligence?

A: It was total negligence by the doctors. I was in a well-established medical facility and had not had any complication pre-delivery. In addition, I was the only one in the labour ward that night. The hospital should have paid for all the damages and costs, but medical justice in Kenya is alien, and corruption makes the wheels of justice not grind at all.


Q: Why did it take six days to know you had recto-vaginal fistula?

I was in so much unexplainable pain, but little knowledge about fistula. I, however, never thought I would suffer fistula irrespective of delivering in a well-recognised hospital, attending all prenatal clinics and just being of super overall health.


Q: How much was the treatment?

It was an unplanned expense and a burden for myself and family. The hospital and doctors were negligent and made a mistake that cost us money. We had to look for money as I was in so much pain, and for my baby to have her mother in the right frame of mind, body, and soul.


Q: How was the ordeal before you got treatment for the Recto-Vaginal Fistula?

A: Until today, I am still trying to get the words to describe the excruciating pain and ordeal. It was traumatic, horrifying and degrading to my dignity as a Human being, and as a woman. I still get chills all over my body when I remember the pain.


Q: How was the support of family and friends?

I lost some friends. They have never contacted me since then, and now my daughter is four years old. Such difficult moments bring out the best or worst in friends. As for my family, they were my greatest support and still are there for me.


Q: How was the new-born affected?

I was in so much pain that my breasts could not produce milk. I could not relax enough for my breasts to produce milk and nourish my baby. It was so traumatising knowing I could not feed my baby. The pain was out of this world. She had to take formula milk. She also suffered from my absence as I had to stay in the hospital, away from her.


Q: How are you coping today?

I live every day at a time. I am still working on my self-esteem to make a comeback as the real me again. Being an entrepreneur, I need to be present and of good health to make sales and provide for my child. Despite the surgery, I have to take extra care using wet wipes, panty liners to make sure I do not have waste leaks although the surgery largely repaired the fistula.


Q: Do you have pending treatments to undergo?

A second surgery is recommended but I am traumatised to be in a hospital bed with doctors surrounding me.


Q: What would you tell women suffering from Fistula?

The African woman is expected to be strong and to overcome anything that comes her way. However, fistula degrades the woman and makes them lose their worth. However, to anyone suffering from fistula:

“It is not your fault. Do not blame yourself.”

“You are not alone. There are many other women and girls going through similar pain.”

“Fistula is avoidable, but when it happens, know that it can be corrected. However, you might never get back to the exact way you were before, but you will be fine. Take one day at a time.”

“Though society does isolate and shun women living with fistula, you can rise and shine again. Do not let the world dim your light.”

“To any woman who has suffered fistula and made it through, you are a CHAMPION. To those still suffering alone, and in silence, a new dawn will break for you too, and you are a CHAMPION.

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