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Renewed Hope: Triumph Over Fistula in the Golden Years

Karen Umutho, a Tharaka Nithi resident is a happy woman. She has been treated for a condition that has haunted her for the last 25 years.

Karen, a mother of three, narrates how she has lived in disgrace for a quarter century.  “My journey with fistula started way back in January 1998 when I went to deliver my third-born child,” Karen kicks off our interview.

She says that it all started in the labor ward. “Having borne some other children before I knew well the signs of labor pain and I was aware when it hit me. But unlike my other pregnancies, this was different as I labored more hours,” says Karen 65.

She notes that the long hours of labor pain might have contributed to the death of her newborn.

Karen marks this as a genesis of her woes as since this period her life has never been the same. “My life took a new turn during this period as I have never managed to go back to the woman I was before,” Karen says with a tinge of bitterness.

She says that since this delivery she would not be able to hold short or long calls for long. She has to be close to the washroom or else she will soil herself. “At the early age, it was worse as it affected me both physically and psychologically but with time, I started managing it,” she notes.

“At my age now, I had learned what to do to avoid embarrassment especially when on social gatherings,” she says.

She notes that whenever she knew she had an event she would start planning her diet some days before. “I would cut down on the amount of water I drink sometimes I would as well avoid light food and Instead do hard foods that would take time to digest,” she says insisting the goal was to dehydrate her body.

This has seen her attend some social gatherings without a lot of struggles although she is quick to note it’s a sacrifice. “Do you imagine attending an event, but you avoid food and drink and if you have to take you do it in small amounts?” she pauses.

Karen, a farmer, feels the condition has wasted a better part of her life as it limits her from exploring the world and utilizing her potential fully. “Fistula patients live in fear. They are anxious about what will happen in the next minute, especially in social places,” she says.

Her situation has been made worse by the fact that she has a child living with a disability. “I am not married, and I have a child living with a disability. I am also not different from a person living with a disability since the condition has limited me. I have been praying to God to redeem me from this shame so that I can be able to provide for my child,” she says.

Karen says that she heard about the Tharaka Nithi fistula campaign during the church service announcements. She examined herself and she felt her time to get healed had arrived. “Deep inside my heart, I knew all was not well. I knew I was ailing but I didn’t have money to seek treatment,” she says.

She notes that at her age she had given up on living a better life and it had reached a point she had made peace with her predicament. “I had gotten used to the issue. It reached a point where I made peace with it but I am really happy God has been gracious to me. I am now whole again. I have been treated,” she says with tears of joy rolling down her cheeks.

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