WORLDWIDE FISTULA FUND: Sandra's Story - Global Impact

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Sandra is the oldest of 5 girls abandoned by their father. Without his support, their family fell into biting poverty. At 14, Sandra was left in charge when her mother was summoned to her Grandfather’s sick bed.

Desperate to feed her sisters, she asked a man in her village for help. He promised to care for Sandra and her sisters in their mother’s absence.

When Sandra’s mother returned, she noticed her daughter looked different – pale, miserable and with a swollen belly. Sandra, she said, are you pregnant? No, Sandra kept telling her. After the third denial, Sandra finally told her mother the truth.

The man — the one who promised to feed Sandra and her five younger sisters — had fled the village after raping her 3 times. Sandra was pregnant.

“My mother broke into tears. She lamented why such incidences happened to her at the trying moments when our father had abandoned us and then our grandfather was ailing in bed.”

Two days after Sandra confided the truth to her mother, her mother courageously went to the clan leader for help, but he didn’t want to become entangled. He told Sandra’s mother to find out where her husband was so he could deal with the matter. Sandra’s mother called him.

“My father was a cruel man who never valued my mother and us. My pregnancy aggravated the state of my parent’s separation and my mother felt it the more. I felt very bad. I tried rudimentary ways to abort the pregnancy but in vain. I contemplated ending my life, but I never knew how to go about it.”

When labor started, Sandra didn’t tell her mother. As the pain persisted, finally Sandra went to her mother who walked with her through the night to a health center 4 miles from their home.

The nurses wouldn’t admit Sandra before she bought gloves for approximately $1.50. She and her mother couldn’t afford them, so the nurses ignored Sandra until the next morning.

At only 15, Sandra’s birth canal was too small for her baby. When the nurses saw that Sandra’s life was at risk, they referred her to a different hospital that was a little less than a mile away. Sandra couldn’t walk anymore. When a good Samaritan with a motorcycle was finally found, Sandra was rushed to the hospital.

Sandra’s baby survived, but the prolonged, obstructed labor she experienced resulted in a fistula. Fistula can result when, over multiple days of labor, the unborn child presses against the mother’s vagina very tightly, cutting off blood flow to the surrounding tissues between the vagina and the rectum and/or between the vagina and the bladder, causing the tissues to disintegrate and rot away.

“I was so devastated. I cursed the day I was born. My mother was lost for words. For two days she was withdrawn and never attended to me. My siblings blamed it all on the doctors.”

Sandra was told that in order to stop the uncontrollable flow of urine, she needed money for travel and surgery.

“Starvation was common experience in our home, but when I suffered fistula, it became the worst experience I have ever encountered in addition the rape that I suffered at the first instance.”

Help was to find Sandra when a villager heard a radio announcement about WFF’s on-the-ground partner, TERREWODE. Sandra immediately traveled to TERREWODE with her friend, who was reimbursed by our Ugandan partner.

Sandra received life-changing fistula surgery after being monitored in the nutrition ward for a week.

Sandra suffered with fistula for 2 months, but she said the stigma and pain made it feel like 2 decades.

“If it had not been for TERREWODE for the free treatment support, I would still be looking for money for treatment and still experiencing uncontrollable urine flow.”

Sandra is interested in studying fashion and hair dressing to support herself and her son.

Featured Client:

Fistula Foundation

Thematic Areas: