Patient Ambassador Stories : Alimamy
On March 18th 2020, sixty-two-year-old Alimamy Turay brought two women suffering from obstetric fistula to the Aberdeen Women’s Centre (AWC) so that they could be examined and treated by our experienced staff.
Alimamy is Fistula Patient Ambassador from the Tonkolili district, in the north of Sierra Leone, and is a vital part of AWC effort to treat and eradicate obstetric fistula in Sierra Leone. Because he is blind Alimamy enlists the help of his young grandson when traveling to find patients. Alimamy’s efforts are especially important because his home district of Tonkolili has one of the highest rates of obstetric fistula according to AWC’s data – from 2009 to 2017, 439 patients who had fistula surgeries at AWC came from Tonkolili.
Alimamy first started his work as a Patient Ambassador after hearing about AWC’s fistula treatment services on AYV radio in 2018. He knew there were women in his community who were suffering from the condition and so he reached out to them and their families to inform them about AWC. Whenever he hears of a woman that might have fistula in his community or further afield, he travels to their homes with his grandson. Upon arrival he talks to them and their families and explains the work of AWC. He encourages them to take advantage of the opportunity and phones AWC Fistula Ward to inform them of a case. If not for AWC’s media sensitisation efforts and radio talk shows, Alimamy would never have known about Aberdeen Women’s Centre’s fistula programme.
Alimamy has an incredible ability to get through to the women and convince them to come to get help. One key challenge AWC staff find on Screening Trips is the fear of patients to travel with them to Freetown. Many women are scared to travel to the capital city as most have never been outside their district but Alimamy, with his calming and reassuring words, describes what AWC is like and helps them overcome their trepidation.
In some cases, Alimamy and his young grandson will go the extra mile and travel with the women to Freetown, to ease their fears.
Alimamy arrived at AWC on 18th March 2020 with two patients, both of which after being screened, had fistula. The women were admitted and scheduled for their surgeries during the Fistula Camp that was ongoing.
As well as bringing two patients, Alimamy told staff there were five other women that he knows of. He will be bringing these back to AWC in the summer for our next Fistula Camp.
Before leaving the Centre, Alimamy was given an AWC ID Card, a new AWC T-shirt, and top up credit for his phone so that he could continue communicating with patients and AWC staff. Alimamy is a true champion for women’s health in Sierra Leone, for which AWC are very grateful.
Mr Turay’s story and commitment shows the important role men can play in women’s sexual and reproductive health care. Strategically engaging men in advocacy efforts around women’s health has been seen to have demonstrated long term impacts. Mr Turay is a fantastic example of a male advocate for women’s rights and AWC are proud to work alongside him.
“Whenever I hear of a woman with fistula, I travel to their village and speak for a long time to them and their families. I always refer them to AWC as I know you will treat them well and look after them”.