I don’t quite recall how I came across the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital (on Facebook I think) but the more I read, the more the story of the Hamlins and their fine work touched me. In our western world, we take it for granted that we have access to medical facilities, in particular obstetric facilities should something go not quite right while we are giving birth. (Both my children were delivered by emergency caesarean section, so I know how that can be!)
It wasn’t until I read ‘Hospital By The River‘ and ‘Catherine’s Gift’, written about Catherine and Reg Hamlin’s life in Ethiopia, that I started to really understand what life might be like if I had not been able to have those caesareans. For thousands of Ethiopian women, their lives are torn apart when they have difficulty in birthing their babies. First, their baby dies. As if that wasn’t more than anyone should have to bear, as a result of days of labour with the baby pressing down into the pelvis, blood supply is cut off to the walls of the vagina, and tissue dies, resulting in holes that are known as obstetric fistulae. The contents of the bladder and bowel leak uncontrollably through these holes. The woman is usually ostracised by her village because of the leakage and the smell; often her husband leaves her, and sometimes, there is nerve damage to the legs and feet, making walking difficult. Also, from lying still over many weeks in an attempt to stop the leaking, she can suffer atrophy and tightening of the tendons making it impossible to walk.
Catherine Hamlin and her late husband, Reg, have dedicated their lives to assisting these long-suffering women, not just by providing life-changing surgery to repair the fistulae, but by helping these women to make a dignified return to their lives; and also by providing them with ongoing support to ensure that they are able to give birth safely next time.
One of the items that the women are provided with during their stay at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital is a new shawl. My mother, sister and I are in the process of knitting one to send. Acrylic yarn is required so that the women may wash their shawls in the river and have them dry quickly. Information about sizing, a basic pattern, and when and where to send your blanket can be found here.
I highly recommend you read either the books I mentioned above or have a look at the website to see the story of these wonderful people, and of some of the courageous women who suffer so much and sometimes travel hundreds of miles in order to have the operation which will make them whole again. Donate if you can, knit or crochet if you can. Every little bit helps!
This month, 10% of all Silver Forge sales will be donated to this very worthy cause. Head to The Silver Forge shop now, and see if you can help out, and get yourself something lovely at the same time!