Childbirth injury mission

Fistula surgery Uganda.
Fistula surgery Uganda.
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Women in Uganda have had their lives transformed by the efforts of a local medical team.

Ishbel Campbell of Parkhead Road, Linlithgow, is a nurse at Bathgate Health Centre but, in a change to her ordinary working week, she has just returned from a nine-day trip to Uganda, where she helped local women have fistulae surgery - relatively unheard of in this country.

Most women who have babies in the East African country have no access to obstetric care and for some, this proves life threatening as labour can bring complications. Teenagers - barely more than girls - can be at risk if their baby is lying the wrong way and, if the mother survives, the baby can be delivered still-born, leaving the mother with dreadful injuries, called fistulae.

Fistulae causes uncontrollable incontinence, ostracising the women from their families, husbands, and for many, means they have no 
further children.

Ishbel said: “The only way to cure these injuries is surgery but operations are complex and most medical care is too expensive for the women to afford.”

Ishbel joined friend and surgeon Mhairi Collie who has gone to Kamuli Mission Hospital, north of Kampala, for the past 10 years with The Uganda Childbirth Injury Fund, to repair these injuries. It costs about £200 to have an operation and the cure rate is 85-90 per cent. When the team got to the hospital they were greeted by 55 women.

Ishbel said: “We operated on 29 of the women assessed. Some of the women have never got over the loss of their child. Injuries such as a hole in the bladder means these women are wet all the time. We operated on Jaja who had been wet for 40 years.

‘‘I knew of another woman who lived in a rural area who was 50 when treated and living in a sack. Their injuries mean they are effectively urinating all the time.

“This doesn’t happen in the UK - if mothers have complications here, they have a Caesearean. It is a big problem in Africa.”

But Ishbel was struck by how happy the women were despite having nothing and the team was greeted by some treated last year, returning with chickens to say thank you.

A film night will be held in aid of The Uganda Childbirth Injury Fund showing Thelma and Louise, on September 27, at Linlithgow Academy, from 7.15pm. Tickets are £10/£7.50.