Dr. Deb Matityahu, OB-GYN and Chief of Service for Kaiser Permanente in Redwood City, has returned to Eldoret, Kenya. She volunteers at the Gynocare Fistula Centre, a clinic dedicated to repairing gynecologic fistulae, which arise when a pregnant woman’s delivery stalls. Tissues are damaged when the baby dies and must be removed from the womb. Dr. Matityahu and her teenage daughter started a non-profit, “A Little 4 A Lot,” which works to rehabilitate the often poor and shunned women after their repair. ALittle4ALot.com has raised money to provide sewing machines and lessons for the women. Here is one of their stories:
Ann is one of our patients. She lived in a poor village, and had to drop out of school. She was sent to Nairobi to be a maid. While in Nairobi, she was dating a boy for just over one year and became pregnant.
At first, Ann didn’t know she was pregnant; she just thought she was sick. When she found out, Ann returned home to her village and went to the hospital. When she delivered in the local hospital, she had a large tear through the rectum that was not repaired well. This resulted in a recto-vaginal fistula (RVF). For those of you not familiar with RVF, it is a tear from the rectum to the vagina, resulting in stool leakage through the vagina. Not pleasant, as you can imagine (understatement).
Because of the stool leakage, she was reluctant to eat or drink anything if she was out of the house. She was embarrassed, ostracized, and depressed. She lived with the fistula for three years before learning she could come to Gynocare (Fistula Centre in Eldoret) for repair. She was repaired in 2011.
Ann was tearful and crying through most of her story. She recently finished her dressmaking class, and says that learning to sew has changed her life. If it weren’t for us and for her sewing machine, she would be working in someone’s home again for 800 kes a month (the equivalent of $10 US). Now, she knows she has a skill and has value.
Ann believes she will be able to return home to give her 5-year-old daughter a better life and an education. On the sewing room wall behind her were about six tote bags that she has already sewn. I plan to purchase them all and sell them in the states.
She continues to cry, insisting that we have changed her life and cannot thank us enough. At this point, I am crying too and got up to hug her. I don’t think I fully realized what we have started with this program, and what we have already accomplished in such a short time.