Abla – Obstetric Fistula

Abla’s Golden Ticket

Abla, a woman living in Togo, West Africa, has been pregnant seven times. Seven stillborn babies. Seven crushing disappointments.

After the seventh time, Abla began leaking urine. Her clothes carried a pungent odor, and she became one of the outcasts. She suffered from a condition called vesicovaginal fistula, or VVF. Many women in Africa suffer from this childbirth injury caused by obstructed labor, but treatment is hard to find. Most of the time, the baby is stillborn. The mother is left scarred and incontinent – and an outcast.

For 15 years, Abla lived with the shame of this condition. Then last year, she heard a radio announcement about a Mercy Ships screening for VVF women. At the screening onboard the Africa Mercy, Abla received her golden ticket … a card with her surgery date on it. When she went for the big day, however, she had an infection. She feared that the nurses would turn her away and simply say, “No, we can no longer do your surgery.”

But Abla met mercy that day. The nurses gave her medicine for the infection and told her to come back a few days later when she was feeling better. Relieved, Abla went home, rested, and anticipated her return to the ship. Two weeks later VVF surgeon, Dr. Steve Arrowsmith, performed surgery on Abla and successfully repaired the fistula. After the medical team removed her catheter and determined that she was dry, Abla’s emotions overwhelmed her and she could not contain her joy.