Anna Kent in Addis Ababa
Anna Kent, who sent us regular reports when she was working with MSF in Sudan, has recently completed a placement in Addis Ababa. Here's the first part of her story. There'll be more in next month's issue.
The Hamlin Fistula Hospital.
My first day was made even more wonderful as I passed Dr Hamlin whilst she was walking in the gardens, and she invited me to her house for a cup of tea!! I certainly regard Dr Hamlin as one of my heroines, and so I was absolutely in awe and to begin with and found myself lost for words as she chatted about the facilities at the hospital. But, she was so humble and gentle she was more interested in hearing of my work with MSF than telling of her amazing life-time dedication to the women of Ethiopia that soon we were talking away. Dr Hamlin is still completing exemplary surgery (at 85!) every week and completes the daily ward rounds and staff meetings. She explained to me that she felt her work would feel complete when the first year of the midwifery school graduated (which is in a years time) as she felt then the steps towards not only treating the fistulas, but also eradicating them, had been made. I very much enjoyed her homemade macaroons too, she even gave me a bag of them to take home! I have been asked if I took any photos of the two of us together but it did not seem appropriate when I was a guest in her house, and not a tourist.
Dr Hamlin has written a book which I thoroughly recommend, called 'The Hospital By the River; a story of hope' about her and her husband's work in Ethiopia. (ISBN-10: 1854246739 ISBN-13: 978-1854246738).
I worked in the wards for a day which consisted of pre-operative areas and a long post-operative ward. There is also a living area for ante-natal care which I found to be such an inspiring addition to their services. For the women healed after surgery, many go on to have further babies, which is wonderful. However, due to the circumstances of their first delivery (ending in a still-birth and injury) a caesarean section is always recommended. The Hamlin Hospital admits the woman back to the hospital at about 5 months into the pregnancy where she will receive all her antenatal care and have a caesarean section when the time is right. The women are told to return to the hospital when they feel their baby's movements and the transport for this is paid for by the hospital. This service added to the sense of responsibility that the Hamlin Hospital had to the women, that they would care for them for many years, not just at the time of surgery. Also, should a woman attend with a fistula but had another health problem as well (such as TB or other diseases of the tropics), she was treated for this ailment first and then had the repair surgery when she was well enough.