Raising Awareness For The Fistula Foundation

Do you guys ever read Aunt Becky over at Mommy Wants Vodka? If not, you really should. She’s hysterical, sometimes vulgar and crude (which of course is funny), sometimes writes from her heart about her feelings/experiences/problems, and can bring me to tears, and she’s wickedly witty and sarcastic. I may or may not have a bloggy crush on her.

She also created Band Back Together, a blog that is “…a place where we could all come to put our thoughts down. A group blog that we could share our struggles and our triumphs as we survived hell.” So if you’ve every dealt with depression, infertility, chronic illness, abuse, or any other type of hell, check out Band Back Together and maybe even post one of your stories there. You will be glad that you did.

So back to Aunt Becky…recently, she pulled an Internet prank that got her to #1 on Google if you searched for John Mayer. Read about it here because it’s not really important to my post today. She’s now trying to raise awareness for charities, and is pulling another prank…a positive prank…that she refers to as “Pulling A The David Cook For Charities“.

I decided to jump in and help raise awareness for The Fistula Foundation.

If you have never heard of a fistula, you’re probably wondering what a fistula is. According to The Fistula Foundation website, a fistula “is simply a hole between an internal organ and the outside world that should not exist.” Fistulas do not occur nearly as often in developed countries as they do in third world countries, however, they do still occur. The difference between fistulas that occur in the US, for example, and the Congo is that here fistulas can be treated and the women can heal. In the Congo (or Somalia, or Ethiopia, or Afghanistan), women who develop fistulas are “often abandoned by their husbands, rejected by their communities, and forced to live an isolated existence”.

The FAQ page of The Fistula Foundation website describes the two types of fistulas: obstetric fistulas develop when blood supply to the tissues of the vagina and the bladder (and/or rectum) is cut off during prolonged obstructed labor. The tissues die and a hole forms through which urine and/or feces pass uncontrollably. Traumatic fistulas are caused by sexual violence, with the same results at that of the obstetric fistulas.

The Fistula Foundation website details the major damage that fistulas create in a woman’s body, especially when not treated. Not only do women experience complete incontinence, some may develop nerve damage to the lower extremities. They also suffer profound psychological trauma resulting from their utter loss of status and dignity.

The Fistula Foundation also describes the consequences of fistula that are life altering when the injury goes unrepaired.  In the Congo, to this day, rape is still being used as a tool of war. The result is often traumatic fistulas, that is holes in bladders, vagina and rectum that are caused by rape or attack using bayonets, wood, and even guns. The Fistula Foundation also mentions that Economist magazine “recently estimated that 80% of the fistula cases in the Congo were the result of sexual violence.  For the women with the injury, they are still very much in need of treatment, and psychological counseling as well.”

The Fistula Foundation was founded as American Friends Foundation for Childbirth Injuries in 2000 by Richard Haas and his daughter Shaleece. In 1999, the Haases visited the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and were moved by the oasis of healing created by Dr. Catherine Hamlin and her late husband, Dr. Reginald Hamlin. They returned to California and established a US-based non-profit dedicated to supporting the treatment and prevention activities of the Fistula Hospital. Since then, The Fistula Foundation has grown into one of the largest privately funded nonprofit organizations supporting fistula treatment globally.

In January 2004, The Oprah Winfrey Show invited Dr. Catherine Hamlin to speak about the plight of fistula patients in Ethiopia. Here is part of that particular show so that you can see for yourself and understand the devasting effects of fisutulas.

In the first six weeks after her appearance on the show, over 6,000 donors contributed $1.3 million through The Fistula Foundation to Dr. Hamlin’s cause. That spring, the Foundation changed its name to the Fistula Foundation to more succinctly describe the organization’s mission.

What really bothers me is that at Dr. Hamlin’s hospitals, it only takes $450 to provide a woman with a fistula repair operation, high-quality postoperative care, a new dress, and bus fare home. Four hundred and fifty dollars?! Most of us probably spend more than that on junk food, pedicures, or coffee every year! The Fistula Foundation understands that some of us cannot afford to donate money to their cause, and so The Fistula Foundation offers other ways for people to support the organization and the women they treat…you can check out the various ways to support The Fistula Foundation here.

I wish that I had $125 to donate to The Fistula Foundation because I would love to have one of their Dignity Bracelets, their gift to you for donating to their cause. Please, please check out The Fistula Foundation website to see how you can help. If you can’t help monetarily, you can help raise awareness. Direct friends and family to The Fistula Foundation website, or to this post. Retweet this post on Twitter. Like it on Stumble Upon. Do what you can to help spread the word.

One last thing, I did not pick The Fistula Foundation randomly. I know somebody that had an obstetric fistula. I have seen first hand the pain, shame, and isolation that a fistula can cause. She completely recovered after at least two years of hell dealing with it…keep in mind that she had some of the best medical doctors in the entire US helping her, and it was still that difficult to repair.

No woman should have to live with the shame and embarrasment that fistulas cause. The Fistula Foundation is doing amazing work for women who might otherwise be forced to live with a gaping hole and uncontrallable urine/feces dripping down her legs for her entire life. Help The Fistula Foundation in any way that you can.

And so it goes…


  1. Maureen @Tatter Scoops says:
    Wish I can donate too. My Dad used to work in Congo and the poverty there is really shocking and he had seen it firsthandedly so this is close to my heart. Thanks for sharing this. Kudos to you, girl!
  2. MamaOnDaGo says:
    Wow, I didn't even know this foundation existed. Thank you for making us more aware of this problem and organization.

    Also, just read your guest post at Kludgy Mom. Great advice for the newbie here.
  3. Thanks so much for writing about obstetric fistula! I started up an organization to combat this terrible problem and love to see people spreading the word. Check out http://millionsteps.org for a fundraising project we are working on.
  4. Jenn of organic-mama.ca says:
    I remember watching that Oprah show and feeling so distraught. Here's hoping that what you're doing will in fact inspire many people to donate!!
  5. I know this is horrible. Fistula sounds just as violent as it is.
  6. blueviolet says:
    I have never heard of this, but I can see how those who suffer from it desperately need our support and help. Thank you for sharing!
  7. Aunt Becky is hilarious!

    I had never heard of this before, either. I think it's great that you are raising awareness.
  8. I remember seeing that Oprah show years ago. So very sad...and yet so little money is needed for repair. What a great cause!
  9. Wow. This is lovely - this post here. I have yet to read The David Cook prank post, but I get the gist.

    While I'm very sad for the plight of the African women who develop fistulas, I was intrigued by the fact that they can be fixed over there for only $450 (again, not an easy thing for those women ...).

    But I wonder how much a single working mother with no health insurance would pay for a fistula repair over here?

    Either way, great job raising awareness!
  10. I'll add it to our donation list.
  11. Dude, awesome! Way to pull a The David Cook for The Fistula Foundation! I'm so proud! Your post is up on Mommy Wants Vodka! And? SO EXCITED TO SEE BAND BACK TOGETHER'S BUTTON UP.

    Dude, I'm misty over it.
  12. Organic Motherhood with Cool Whip says:
    I left a superlong comment for you yesterday and then my computer ate it. Sorry about that! But I just wanted to chime in and say how very VERY important this project is and how thrilled I am that you are raising awareness. My sister had a fistula and it was the most horrible experience. It was going from her colon up inside to a series of pus filled cavities, some the size of a grapefruit. They cut open the space between her vagina and rectum and did surgery to clean it out. It didn't work, so she had even more surgeries. But the worst part was that the wound had to be left open while it healed. Can you imagine having a gaping wound leaking pus in that area of your body. It was so awful. And so hard to keep clean. And painful. It did finally heal, but there was also a time when it was not clear whether my sister's sphincter muscles would heal properly and whether she might need a colostomy. Oh God. It was so terrible. And scary. My poor sister. She was such a trooper. Anyway, this is all to say, THANK YOU!!!! This is a very important cause and I really appreciate all you are doing to get the word out. xoxoxoxoxo
  13. Thank you for raising awareness about The Fistula Foundation and about the causes and (sometimes long-term) painful effects of fistula. I'm so proud of the (prank) work we're all doing to raise awareness about these charities!
  14. I think the David Cook can totally back up the Fistula Foundation...and he should (just in case he's reading this).
  15. I've been mulling over a The David Cook - and the Fistula Foundation was one of the prospects! Glad that you did this.
  16. I have never heard of this before and appreciate you for bringing it to my attention.
  17. Great post. If you are a fiction reader and this charity touches your heart, let me recommend Abraham Verghese's book: Cutting for Stone. It's set in Ethiopia and it has fistulas! It is written by a physician, and made medicine more interesting to me than it ususally is, and anyway, if I describe the story it will sound dull but it is a lovely book, beautifully written, and you'll get a picture of the fistula and genital mutilation that is hard to forget - but as you recommend this charity to others you might be glad to recommend this book. If you read it, I hope you like. It is on my favorites shelf.


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