Today in my inbox I received an email from an old tennis buddy/ a retired Obs and Gynae colleague/ and recent addition to my ‘saint’ category. Dr Barbara Hall retired from a thriving Obstetrics and Gynaecology practice a couple of years ago to take up a new interest in saving the women of Africa from the distress of severe prolapse. Taking her lead from a couple of other ‘saints’, Professor Judith Goh and Dr Hannah Krause- I’ve written often of their amazing work– Barb (and her also retired husband John), have been to Africa a few times now performing multiple operations on women suffering with pelvic organ prolapse. Dr Neroli Ngenda, another Brisbane gynaecologist and her husband have also travelled to do amazing work- at their own expense, in their ‘holiday’ time. Now the contents of the email are uplifting but also very distressing. I will let you read it and judge.
John and I have recently returned from St Paul’s Health Centre in Kasese Uganda, where we did our fourth surgical prolapse camp. We screened 94 women and performed 30 major operations. The camp went well and as always there were highlights and lows! The highlight was a beautiful young woman, Jackeline, who came back to thank us! She presented in January last year with infertility and a large uterine fibroid. Infertility is a difficult thing in a country where the average parity is 6 and it is not uncommon for women to have 12 children. A woman’s worth is calculated by her ability to produce children – so a childless woman (at only 28 years of age) has no self esteem. In addition there is no treatment available for her. We removed her uterine fibroid during our January camp – because of severe symptoms from it, but with no guarantee it would enable her to conceive. It was wonderful to see her return in December (photo below) to tell us that she is now 3 months pregnant! She was so grateful that she bowed down to kiss our feet!!!
The low point came 3 days before we left St Pauls. 40 year old Lucia was brought to the health centre from a government hospital 4 hours away. She had been in the hospital there for 2 months and was in severe cardiac failure. Because she was destitute with no money and no relatives to look after her, the hospital was giving her no treatment – just a little food, and waiting for her to die. At the same time she had a very large uterine prolapse which made it impossible for her to pass urine, so she required an indwelling catheter. When the hospital heard we were at St Paul’s, they sent her to us for treatment – as we paid for her transport. On arrival she was near death, however with treatment of her cardiac failure by Dr Biryandi (the local doctor at St Paul’s), she was improving by the time we had to leave. We are continuing to pay for her treatment, until she is well enough to be transferred to a large centre for definitive surgery for her prolapse (Procidentia) – for which we will also pay. For the time being, she was delighted to receive a bar of soap – a present we give all our patients. She could not believe that it was all for her, as she had never seen a 1kg bar of soap before!!! (at $1.20 a bar insignificant to us!!) Without our funding she would have died in the government run hospital. Unfortunately this is a not uncommon scenario!
Without your donations Lucia would most certainly have died, and Jackeline may have never had a child. You have also considerably improved the quality of life for all the other ladies who had prolapse surgery. For this, we and they, thank you most sincerely! Below are photos of some of these ladies who wish to thank you for what you have done for them.
Unfortunately, we were not able to go to Kagando to do the planned fistula camp in December, due to logistical problems at the hospital. This camp has been deferred until this year.
We have received word this week that our second container has arrived in Kagando and is now being unpacked! There are many excited hospital workers there eagerly awaiting the distribution of the medical supplies.
We look forward to seeing you all at our annual fundraiser later in the year!
Barbara Hall, Judith Goh, Hannah Krause, John Taylor
I think you’ll agree, an email like this makes you stop and ponder- is there anything I can do to help?
This weekend, many of you will head for a dinner at a café- you might have a glass of wine. It may well cost $9 for a single glass of wine. A whole bottle could be $35-$50. A beer could be $8. An entree will cost about $15-$20. The total bill for 2 could easily be $100 plus. It all may take one and a half hours- if you really string it out.
Now just imagine if everyone who reads this blog decided to forgo their entre, or the second glass of wine or better still the bottle of wine? And then decided to donate that small amount of money to the wonderful work that Barb, John, Judith and Hannah do. Such a little amount of money does such a lot in Africa- and all the money that goes to Judith’s work gets completely utilized because all the people who raise money and do work for HADA are volunteers – so there is no waste in administration fees. Just in case you decide to contribute to their work I have provided a link to their donation page.
‘No one has ever become poor by giving.’