Freedom From Fistula | obstetric fistula caused by obstructed childbirth

Patient Stories: Stella


Stella is 19.

Originally from Mozambique, Stella never attended school and was married off at the age of 15.

Stella moved to her uncles aged 6 after being abandoned by her mother who felt her daughter was an expense she could not afford.

At age 15 Stella married because she felt it was too much on her uncle to take care of her, particularly as he also had a wife and children to care for. Stella decided to marry so she would remove the burden of care from her uncle, and a year into her marriage fell pregnant.

Stella went into labor and quickly rushed to the traditional birth attendant (TBA) but unfortunately the TBA was not able to deliver her baby. Stella then had to wait for a whole day before her family could source money for transport, so she could go to the nearby health center. Stella was operated on, but unfortunately she lost her baby.

Stella stayed at the health center for a week before she was discharged. During her stay she noticed her bedding was wet and that she was leaking urine. Before she was discharged, Stella was referred to the district hospital, but would have to wait a further 3 months, as she had to recover from her operation.

After Stella had healed from her first operation she went to the district hospital where she was referred again to our Fistula Care Centre in Lilongwe. At the end of 2023 Stella came to the center where she had a successful fistula operation. Stella was discharged in October and upon discharge, returned to live with her uncle, who welcomed her with opened arms.

Unfortunately, Stella only lived with her uncle for a week, before her mother came to pick her up and marry her off to a new husband. A financial arrangement had been made and Stella was forced to marry against her will.

She suffered domestic abuse and became re-injured, leaking urine due to the physical trauma she had faced.

The center noticed Stella was missing check-up appointments and initiated a search for her. In January 2024 we found Stella and brought her to the center. She underwent counseling and staff met with her mother to discuss the best way to help her daughter and to help her understand her daughters condition. While at the center we taught Stella how to read and write her name, how to garden and grow her own food so she can look to support herself and become independent. We will continue to monitor Stella's well being.