When we left Mobuba, she was a 12 year old girl, waiting to die in her small room. But something started happening. First I should mention that Mobuba was a Muslim. Mobuba started having dreams. Almost every night for four months she dreamed about a man in white clothing who told her to go to the local clinic for medical help. The man said there is a “ferengi” who will help you. Mobuba did not listen to the dream even though it continued for months. One afternoon, Mobuba, who was awake, heard a noise. She did not know what it was, but thought maybe an animal or a snake coming to kill her. But it was not, it was the same man dressed in white who said again… “Go to the clinic”.
Mobuba decided that she might as well try so the next day she began to crawl on her hands and knees across the city to get to the clinic. When she arrived the guard told her it was too late. She could not come inside. He also said that Mobuba’s 1 birr (10 cents) was not enough for her to even enter the gate.
Mobuba was in full despair at this time. She crawled from house to house looking for shelter, but no one would take her in. You see, having a fistula is a big stigma. No one wants you in their home or to care for you because of the horrible odor of the leaking feces and urine.
Mobuba went back to the clinic area and resigned to die in the night, hoping that she would finally be eating by wild animals. As she lay in the dark she heard a voice that said “Go to this house” and the house was described to her. Mobuba thought to herself, what else do I have to loose, she began to crawl again. When she arrived at the house and knocked it was the midwife who delivered her dead baby that answered the door. The midwife looked shocked. She said, “I dreamed that you would come to my door and here you are!” The midwife took Mobuba in for the night and promised to take her to the clinic the next day.
Mobuba spent some time in this clinic and they could do nothing more than make her comfortable, but on of the “Ferengi” had heard of the Fistula hospital in Addis. They asked her if she wanted to go for treatment. Mobuba was thrilled to be able to go.
Mobuba had 4 surgeries while living at the fistula hospital. Although her fistula was healed, she was still not able to walk. She was terrified to be discharged with still no hope due to her paralysis. She begged not to be discharged.
The American doctor and his wife who worked there saw this dilemma. They had built a strong relationship with Mobuba and had informally adopted her as their daughter. They decided to see if they could do physical therapy with Mobuba. Slowly, and with an incredible amount of work Mobuba gained more strength and ability and was able to walk. First with canes and splints, then with just splints and finally on her own. She also stayed at the fistula hospital and began to work as a nurse’s aid.
Mobuba, now a woman in good physical and emotional health is telling her story to give hope to others. I met this quite humble woman at dinner one night. She wore simple clothes and she wrapped a thin white cloth around her head and neck which represented her Orthodox faith. She spoke her story in Amharic (it was translated to us) and even though I could not understand her Amharic, I watched her face and saw her eyes, her sorrow her joy, her defeat and her hope.
Mobuba is one of many many women who suffer from Fistulas. This is a common story here. It is common because women are not able to go to hospitals for birth. It happens because girls are married and become pregnant before their bodies are prepared for birth. It happens because of poverty, trafficking, lack of education, and many other reasons.
I encourage you to learn more about Fistulas. There is a great documentary (you can find on netflix) A Walk to Beautiful which highlights this Ethiopian fistula hospital and follows different woman through their journey of suffering and healing.
Thank you for listening to Mobuba’s story. I hope it has touched you as it has me.