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HAT - Humanitarian Aid Trust Nepal

Beneath The Burden – A Journey Of Healing From Obstetric Fistula

In the serene district of Doti, Sudurpashchim, Nepal, lives Parvati, a 54-year-old woman grappling with the challenges of her surroundings. Doti, nestled in the western hills of the country, boasts a landscape adorned with mid-hills and high hills. Here, the locals engage in agriculture and livestock rearing to sustain their livelihoods. However, this picturesque terrain belies some pressing issues faced by its residents.

As a young woman, Parvati got married at the tender age of 18. Within a year of her mar­riage, she found herself embrac­ing moth­er­hood. Unfor­tu­nately, her village lacked the con­ve­nience of a nearby birthing centre. When the time came for her labour, she expe­ri­enced pro­longed dif­fi­cul­ties deliv­er­ing her child within the con­fines of her own home.

Despite the des­per­ate attempts of a vil­lager to help her, the sit­u­a­tion remained dire. The fol­low­ing day, Parvati was trans­ported to Dhangadi, the province capital, where her child was deliv­ered, albeit life­less. Trag­i­cally, this painful event marked the onset of an added affliction–urinary incontinence.

Return­ing home without her baby, Parvati carried the weight of grief and faced the burden of per­sis­tent urinary leakage. Her family sought medical assis­tance in various hos­pi­tals, yet her con­di­tion remained unreme­died, endur­ing for a gru­elling six months. Even­tu­ally, over time, her incon­ti­nence mirac­u­lously healed on its own.

Two years after her first deliv­ery, she once again embraced the prospect of moth­er­hood. This time, however, her husband took proac­tive mea­sures to ensure her well-being. They moved near the hos­pi­tal one month before her expected deliv­ery date, with her husband pro­vid­ing unwa­ver­ing support.

Parvati under­went a cesarean section upon admis­sion to the hos­pi­tal to bring her daugh­ter into the world. Trag­i­cally, the surgery rekin­dled her urinary incon­ti­nence, a secret she hes­i­tated to divulge to her family out of shame. Even­tu­ally, her husband and other family members dis­cov­ered her predica­ment, yet they neglected to pursue further medical inter­ven­tion. Pre­oc­cu­pied with the birth of their daugh­ter and the endur­ing incon­ti­nence, they failed to address her needs adequately.

In later years, Parvati found herself preg­nant once again. She and her husband jour­neyed to Dhangadi, living near the hos­pi­tal in antic­i­pa­tion of the birth. This time, she under­went a lower segment cesarean section, deliv­er­ing a son. Over­joyed by the arrival of their long-awaited son, her husband and family members dili­gently cared for her well-being.

However, the weight of Parvati’s con­di­tion con­tin­ued to affect her life. The per­sis­tent odour of urine deterred her from engag­ing in social activ­i­ties such as vis­it­ing neigh­bours, attend­ing gath­er­ings, or even par­tak­ing in reli­gious cer­e­monies. Her exis­tence remained unchanged, with her chil­dren growing up and estab­lish­ing their own families.

Parvati endured the burden of urinary incon­ti­nence through­out these years, and her grand­chil­dren grew aware of her con­di­tion. They would can­didly remark in their inno­cence, “Grand­mother, you have wet your­self and carry a foul odour.” Help­less and unsure of a solu­tion, she felt trapped in her circumstances.
However, a glimmer of hope illu­mi­nated her path when a fellow woman from her village attended an ori­en­ta­tion pro­gramme on fistula. Upon learn­ing of Parvati’s plight, this woman shared infor­ma­tion about a free obstet­ric fistula treat­ment avail­able at the Surkhet Fistula Treat­ment Centre. Grate­ful for this life­line, Parvati con­tacted the centre and con­veyed her strug­gles to the staff over the phone.

The staff at the Fistula Treat­ment Centre assured her that they could provide the nec­es­sary treat­ment for her obstet­ric fistula. Over­whelmed with joy and new­found hope, Parvati eagerly pre­pared to travel to the centre, accom­pa­nied by her 29-year-old son.

Upon their arrival at the Fistula Treat­ment Centre, Parvati under­went a thor­ough exam­i­na­tion by a skilled doctor who con­firmed the pres­ence of the obstet­ric fistula. The doctor rec­om­mended surgery as the most effec­tive solution.
Parvati spent 14 days recov­er­ing after the surgery with a catheter in place. She expe­ri­enced a trans­for­ma­tive moment during this time—her strug­gles with urinary incon­ti­nence ended.

When the catheter was finally removed, she dis­cov­ered she could pass urine nat­u­rally and without leakage. A sense of pro­found relief washed over her as she realised that, after 35 long years, she was finally free from the shack­les of fistula.