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I am starting a new chapter. I have lived an embarrassing life.

Priscah Chepkosgei, 30, resonates well with the famous quote that, that which doesn’t kill you makes you strong. For the last 14 years, Priscah has been suffering from fistula – a reproductive health condition that results in the social degradation of women.

“I became a fistula victim in 2009. At the time I was only 16 years old,” she recalls.  Priscah notes that she is a victim of teenage pregnancy. She became pregnant at the tender age of 16 years. “I was in a relationship back at secondary school. At the time I was very innocent, I was only trying to discover myself and the world around me. It’s in that relationship where I got pregnant,” she explains.

She notes that although she was not mature for marriage at the time the man responsible for the pregnancy was ready to start life with her. “It’s normal for girls to get pregnant at a tender age in the village and so it was not a big deal,” she says.

Priscah says that, like most girls who get pregnant early in life she didn’t continue with her formal education. The pregnancy marked the end of her 8-4-4 education. “So I started cohabiting with the father of my child and when the time came to deliver he supported me fully,” she expounds.

Even though she had all the support she required, she notes that her delivery was not smooth as she struggled to push the baby to the extent that the doctors were planning to take her for a caesarian section but just before they took her to the theatre she delivered miraculously.

Unfortunately, her child didn’t survive. She died before they left the hospital. To add salt to the injury the doctors realized all was not well with Priscah. She had suffered a fistula. She would pass urine without her knowledge. “Although they did not reveal to me the condition I was suffering from they tried to treat me but they didn’t succeed. Not even going back to the hospital would save the situation,” she observes.

She notes that it didn’t take long before her man would get tired of her. He abandoned her. This saw Priscah go back to her parents where she shared with them about the condition.

She notes that her parents tried to take her to the hospital but didn’t succeed. They tried herbal medicines but again they were not successful. “Nobody has ever heard about the condition in my homestead. So we started looking for traditional solutions and even seeking prayers from men of God but the results were more of the same,” she says.

Priscah explains that it reached a point her condition was dividing her parents as they would shift blames on who was responsible for it. “Some paternal family members would accuse the mother of moving outside her marriage. Some thought it was a curse or witchcraft, everyone had different opinions about it,” says Priscah sobbing.

She notes that the fistula stopped her life completely. “I was abandoned by my husband, lost friends, and my health. I couldn’t work. I would stay at home alone. This is the only place I would find solace,” she explains.

A new chapter…

For now, Priscah is happy her life has taken a new turn. “I am starting a new chapter. I have lived an embarrassing life. I don’t believe that I can sleep and wake up without having soiled my bed. This couldn’t happen before. I am learning how to start living again. This is a new chapter in my life and I am very grateful,” she says. She terms fistula as a crippling condition that denies a person social life.

Priscah says she first heard of the fistula on the radio. “When I first heard of it on the radio, I was with my brother and he helped me look for details about it on Google. In the process, we learned how the Flying Doctors Society of Africa has helped women to overcome the condition. It didn’t take long before I heard about the Webuye Fistula Camp,” she says happily.

“ I even didn’t have bus fare to the camp venue. I borrowed the money Kshs250 to this place,” says Priscah a Uasin Gishu county resident.

She points out the lack of resources and qualified doctors are among the top reasons why most local hospitals can’t treat such conditions. “Most of the local hospitals don’t have qualified doctors to treat fistula. Treating the condition is also very expensive,” says Priscah.

For now, Prsicah is grateful to the Flying Doctors of Africa, M-Pesa Foundation and Royal Media Services for assisting women to get this treatment. “A lot of women are suffering silently. They don’t know where to find help but I am happy I am now treated,” she concludes.

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