Thursday, February 14, 2019

27 Dresses

27 Dresses
Twenty-seven dresses. Okay, well, it’s really 28 dresses, but I really love the 27 Dresses movie. So I went with that.
Plus, I’m secretly hoping that someone will turn me in for copywriting problems. They will contact the lead actress of 27 Dresses, Katherine Heigl, and she’ll give me a huge donation of 27 dresses. I mean, what is she gonna do with those dresses anyways?
I swear, what girl doesn’t LOVE that movie? Weddings. Romance. First world problems.
But I’m here in the third world. And I have 28 women who have been operated on during our fistula week at Bere Adventist hospital. Plus two more that I did this week, and more and more that are coming with the news of our fistula surgeries.
If you’ve read our blog, I’ve explained to you what a vesico-vaginal fistula is. If you’re new to us, a vesico-vaginal fistula (VVF) is a hole between the bladder and the vagina. It is most often caused by prolonged labor, something common here in the third world simply due to the difficult logistics of getting to the hospital for advanced delivery care when home births don’t work. In those cases, the baby usually dies during labor and the mother barely escapes with her life. In first world countries, a VVF is very rare and most often caused by surgery or cancer.
I have been operating on VVFs for seven years now, but usually only do about 10-20 per year. I had some harder cases that were not healing due to their urethral involvement. I was able to find the fistula expert in the country and invite him to our hospital. Normally he works out in Abeche, a 2-3 day drive from here.
Hoping I would get at least ten cases to do together, I made a few announcements on the radio. I had already had six patients waiting, so I needed just four more.
To my surprise, there are more VVFs here than I thought! We ended up doing 28 cases in one week, many of them quite complex! It was a busy week. And all of the other non-urgent cases had to wait until the following week since we only have one operating room to work in! (Although some amazing people are organizing a container of supplies for us to have THREE operating rooms functional by December! If you have access to a massive warehouse of medical equipment, let me know!)
Dr. Valentin was very easy to work with and I learned a lot of techniques to apply to my vaginal repairs. He works with a few NGOs, and one of them donated some money to help with the cases. I was able to get $70 per patient to help with medicine and food (even food for their family members!) for their 3-4 weeks stay. So it was a great help. The hospital still had to eat the cost of the consult, hospitalization, supplies, labs, surgery, etc, but it was rewarding work!
Each story is touching. There are several older women who have been leaking urine for over 20 years! They had never been operated on. They didn’t know that someone could fix them! One lady came in with a pretty simple fistula. But get this. Her daughter now has the same problem. Both of them operated on in the same day! A mother-daughter special. Both healing well.
Another lady gives a heart wrenching story of having a rope in her hand ready to hang herself. She just couldn’t do it, but she was strongly considering it several years ago. Now she is on her way to recovery.
These women live tough lives. They leak urine. Therefore, they smell like urine. They sleep in wet, smelly clothes. Everywhere they sit is wet when they get up. They can’t get a normal job because they smell. Most of their husbands leave them. They can’t have more kids usually. Their life is a mess.
And now they have a second chance. A second chance at life. A second chance to be clean. And I want them to go home in a new dress.
So I’m in need of 28 dresses. Katherine’s dresses would do just fine. But they would probably cost about 200-300 dollars each I’m guessing. My dresses would only cost $20.
I would like to thank Dr. Valentin for coming to help me with these cases. We are planning another fistula week in May together.
I would also like to take this time to thank Mission Regan for donating many ureteral catheters/ stents (keeps the tube between the kidney and bladder open when the surgery is right next door). I was looking everywhere for these, and was about ready to buy them at $200-300 each when I was put in contact with Mission Regan. Sometimes the ureteral openings are very close to the edge of the fistula, so you have to put a ureteral catheter in to know the location and to keep the urine off of the closure postoperatively. Other times you have to reconnect the ureter to the bladder abdominally. Without these stents it would be impossible. Thank you Mission Regan!!!
Let’s just assume that Katherine is going to read this and donate all of her dresses to me! But in case she doesn’t, there is a donation button on AHI’s website. Just write in: “Bere Fistula Fund” to help with this special project. The donation from the NGO is special, but it doesn’t cover any of the OR materials, and certainly none of the dresses.
And a girl’s gotta have a new dress for this special occasion of being DRY! Out with the old stenchy clothes, and in with a new DRESS!