When 15 year-old Naropil Enole Kereto got married to her 29 year-old husband in 2010, she was a happy young lady. She had acquired the much coveted status of being somebody’s wife –a second wife. Naropil comes from Narok County in Kenya’s Rift Valley province. In her Maasai community, polygamy is not unusual.
Having never gone to school all her life, Naropil would spend her days herding her husband’s livestock, or staying at home undertaking domestic chores. Her marital bliss would further be heightened when she fell pregnant shortly thereafter.
It was a smooth pregnancy for the 15 year-old, who knew that the end result would be a bouncing baby and a happy husband –and by extension -a happy family and a happy community around her.
At the end of her pregnancy, at nine months, Naropil would begin experiencing labor pains. Even though she was miles away from a health facility, it did not worry her since she had no intention of giving birth in a health center anyway.
“Where I come from, we don’t go to hospital. All health remedies are found locally. During birth, –mothers, aunts, cousins and female neighbors are the ones who assist in the delivery,” she says.
But after five days of intense pain with no baby in sight, her husband, fearful that he would lose his young and new wife, decided to go against his culture and take her to the local hospital. There, Naropil underwent an emergency caesarean section.
“Unfortunately, my baby was born dead. The doctors told me that I had taken too long to come to the hospital after my labor started, so the baby had died in my stomach. It was a baby girl,” a mournful Naropil says.
A few days after she was discharged from hospital, Naropil noticed that she would always urinate on herself. She wondered why she was unable to hold in her urine like she had always done before.
Naropil explained this ‘strange phenomenon’ to her husband, who told her not to worry and that with time, she would heal and the leaking urine problem would be a thing of the past. However, days, weeks and months went on, with the urine continuing to leak with no reprieve in sight.
Thankfully, in 2013 –two years after the stillbirth of her daughter, she decided to return to the hospital and inform them about the problem she had developed after the delivery.
“The doctors told me about a free surgery for women with problems like mine, and referred me to a private hospital in Nairobi for the surgery. I immediately went for it.”
However, Naropil says she was disappointed because even after the surgery, the leaking never stopped, yet the doctors had reassured her that it would. Disappointed, she continued with her regular life in rural Narok, sad that she would always have the leaking urine problem –and the constant smell it brought along.
That was until she learnt of the free fistula camp at the Kenyatta National Hospital in July 2016, which was being undertaken in collaboration with the Flying Doctors Society of Africa (FDSA) and the Freedom from Fistula Foundation (FFF). She informed her husband, who facilitated her journey to the capital city of Nairobi for her surgery.
We met her at the KNH ward, recuperating after having undergone a successful fistula repair surgery just two days before. She was beaming and full of hope.
“These doctors were very good and told me that they have now fixed the reason behind my urine leaks. I am very excited and when I return home and after six months, I will try to get pregnant again,” she said.
Before undergoing the fistula repair surgery, Naropil told us that she had once lost a pregnancy at two months, which nurses had told her was because of the fistula.
“The fistula has now been repaired and I believe I will be able to carry my next pregnancy to term. It is my great desire to be a mother. Aside from that, I really want to give my husband a child and I now believe that it will be possible to do so,” a beaming Naropil told us.