Friday, April 17, 2009

Fistula Days 2-3: Exams

Today and yesterday were full days. We did, I think, at least forty exams each day. An exam is like an annual exam but waaaay worse in every possible way. The women are poked and stretched and prodded, in order to determine why and where they're leaking. For anyone who wants more details on this, I can tell you about it later.

Yesterday I translated for Bachira, Mariama, Sakina, Joumare, and Tawra. Our responsibilities as translators are to help the women change into hospital gowns, bring them into the examination rooms, be with them throughout the exam (takes 30-60 minutes, sometimes longer), and translate for them the whole time. It requires some new Hausa vocab, to say the least.

Today, I had Fachima, Habsatou, Bintou, Fatima, Sa'a, Habi, Nana Hanatou, Rachida, and Djaliatou. My mind is full of their stories and I'm finding it hard to concentrate on writing about anything-- I want you to know everything, but there's just so much. I will start, I guess, and see how it goes.

Habi is seventeen years old. She's beautiful, with dark eyes and a large, careful smile. She knows 'hello', 'how are you', and 'i'm fine'. She limps, because her nerves in one leg got damaged during labor. Habi was pregnant at age 13, and had one son, stillborn. She has had several surgeries to correct the leaking of urine and feces; she no longer leaks feces but continues leaking urine. She has lived at the hospital for a few years. During her exam today, the doctors decided that they will not operate on her, because she has too much internal scarring, and the surgery is unlikely to succeed.

Bintou is twenty years old. She is serious and direct, and came from a village from way out east. She has never been pregnant or had a child. She leaks urine because her urethra was cut in order to enlarge her vagina. Her clitoris is intact. The doctors will perform surgery next week.

Nana Hanatou is in her early forties. She talks a lot! I ask her one question and her answer deviates all over the place, ultimately being about her grandchildren. She leaks urine, but it turns out it's not because of a fistula. After doing a bunch of tests (and putting an IV of indigo into her hand, which was pretty fascinating for me and her to watch), the doctors determined that she has an easily reparable condition in which one of her ureters (sp?) runs to her uterus instead of wherever it's supposed to go. Anatomy. She'll get surgery in a week.

Joumare is older, maybe in her fifties. She has one grown son who is a tailor. I don't remember the details of her fistula, but I do know that she's going to get surgery next week. The doctors said they won't perform it until she beefs up a little; she's very slight and malnourished. They're going to give her power bars! She was pretty excited about that. She also said she's going to bring me some new clothes.

Fachima is twenty years old. She is petite, not even 5 feet tall, and is quick to smile. She shouts my name every time she sees me. She had one daughter last year, stillborn, after three days of labor. Her bladder has a large hole in it, so the doctors aren't sure surgery will work; they estimated 60% chance of success. They'll try tomorrow.

Some other women are here who don't have fistula, exactly, but other gynecological/pelvic/obstetrical/rectal issues. Today I translated for a woman with stress incontinence, one with a fallen uterus, and another with a large hernia.


Marilyn said...

These stories are amazing....I am in awe of your work Jessica! Miss you too! xo Mame

JessicaBliss said...

Hi Mame! It makes me happy that you are reading all of this. Thanks for checking in on me :) I miss you too!!xoxoxoxo