Professor Judith Goh and Dr Hannah Krause, two committed Brisbane Urogynaecologists, headed off for their regular African ‘holiday’ on Wednesday – a safari to look at the big cats you probably think? No! They flew to the Congo to continue their wonderful, selfless work helping the women of Africa who have suffered the indignity of an obstetric fistula. A fistula means there is a communication between the wall of the vagina and the bladder or rectum- meaning the women are permanently incontinent of faeces or urine. When this occurs, the women are often ostracized from their village.
Many of us who work in the area of managing incontinence understand the social stigma and isolation that faecal and urinary incontinence can bring, but nothing compares to the shame and loss of face these African women suffer. Also in Australia there is access to specialist care whether it be from Continence Physiotherapists or Nurses or more serious intervention from a Urogynaecologist, Urologist, Gynaecologist or Colorectal surgeon. There is also ready access to continence aids such as pads and even Government schemes to help finance the cost of the pads for those who can’t afford them.
You may think that these trips that Judith and Hannah undertake two, three or four times a year are funded in some way by the Australian Government or they are paid to do this work. But no, they fund the airfares themselves and the rest comes from fund- raising by an organisation called Health and Development Aid Abroad Australia Fund. (See www.hada.org.au ) Not only are they continuing to do their wonderful surgery through their ‘holiday’ but some of the places they visit and operate from are not very safe – guns and soldiers are regular backdrops to this adventure. So the next time you are planning your Noosa sojourn or Italian escape – maybe cast your eye over the website and send a donation to HADA – but make sure you mark it MEDICAL TRAINING IN AFRICA so the money makes it to Judith and Hannah’s projects.