VVF- The Touching Story of Halimat

Halimat was a girl born into a polygamous family. Her mother was the fourth wife of a shoemaker.

She grew up to be a charming young lady even with the less attention and care she got from her parents, which is typical of a polygamous home anyway. She was beautiful in all sense; a shining dark skin, full lips, well-shaped and sensuous mouth capped with a good heart. She was like a flower waiting to be opened. But she was only 14.
One morning when the sun was still angry in the sky, Halimat went out to hawk Masa– a special northern delicacy her mother fries every morning. A man oodles older than her stopped her. He was pitch dark and vertically challenged. He bought some Masa and then found out from her where her parents stay so, according to him, he can come and buy more from her mother. She innocently told him but little did she know that he had something up his sleeve.

The man started coming every morning to buy Masa from her mother but a week later it hit her like a boxer’s punch when her father summoned her to his room and told her, without mincing words, that the same man had indicated interest to marry her and he had already given him his consent.

Her world was shattered like an iceberg in the night. She didn’t belong to herself any more. All her efforts to convince her father that she wasn’t ready for marriage just yet met brick walls. He was a man that when he made up his mind it was like a concrete. She intensified her prayers from the normal five times a day for a good Muslim to seven times a day but eventually broke down a night to her wedding and surrendered to reality.

Halimat was tossing in the wetness of her sleep that night when her mother came into the room. She too was not happy that she was getting married at an age every girl should still be with their parents but she didn’t have a say on what goes on in the family. She lifted her from the bed and nestled her into her arms. Her body was shaking. When she patted her soothingly on the back, tears sprang to her eyes, and her mouth opened on a soundless cry.

She began to cry.

A week after she got married, she lived every day in fear and confusion. She didn’t know of how to take care of herself as a wife not to mention taking care of her husband. Her mother made efforts to help her out but she was a confused child that didn’t understand anything she tried to explain to her.

Then came the unyielding attempts by her husband to play with her like married people do each night but she was too scared to let him in. One night, he succeeded in forcing himself in. That was a gross mistake he soon realize, even though he didn’t care.

After she was defiled, Halimat was totally broken with pains. She had bruises all over her vagina. She looked up from the blood stain on her bedding at her husband through still-wet eyes and for a second his heart forgot how to breathe. He had brought misery to the life of a child and he felt guilty for it but there was nothing he could do now to change what he had already done. Supposing it was forbidden I wouldn’t have contemplated marrying her in the first place, he thought in the silence of his heart. So he blamed himself less.

Halimat became pregnant and after nine months, she was delivered of a beautiful girl. She didn’t take after her father. She was as beautiful as the sunset. When Halimat set her eyes on the little creature, she smiled her first smile ever since she got married. She christened her Binta which means damsel.

But this was the beginning of her worse days. She found out a kind of abnormality ‘down there.’ Urine was involuntary dripping into her vagina and when she was taken to the hospital, it was diagnosed to be Vesico Vaginal Fistula otherwise known as VVF.

What is Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF)?

VVF is an abnormal hole between the bladder or rectum and the vagina, characterised by the involuntary streaming of urine into the vaginal vault.

It is often caused by childbirth, when a prolonged obstructed labour presses the unborn child tightly against the mother’s pelvis, cutting off blood flow to the vesico-vaginal wall. The affected tissue may die, leaving a hole.

VVF is very uncommon in developed countries, but estimated to occur in up to three in 100,000 deliveries in West Africa. And according to the National Demographic Health Survey, no fewer than 12, 000 women develop VVF every year in Nigeria.

Causes

These are the major causes of VVF;

  1. Prolonged obstructed labour-this occurs when the unborn child cannot pass through the mother’s pelvis and so it is tightly pressed against it, cutting off blood flow to the vesico-vaginal wall; causing the affected tissue to die, drop off and leaving a hole.
  2. Young maternal age.
  3. Traditional practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM).
  4. Violent rape and other sexual abuse
  5. Medical Procedures: In developed countries, most VVF are the result of radiation therapy and surgery.
  6. Poverty-Malnutrition during pregnancy can affect pelvis dimension thereby increasing a woman’s chances of having VVF. Lack of ante-natal and post natal care is also risk factors which are attributed to poverty.
  7. Lack of appropriate healthcare for pregnant women.
  8. Diseases and Accident: inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Symptoms

  1. Continuous leakage of urine or faeces into the vagina.
  2. The vagina may become inflamed or sore.
  3. Repulsive or fowl smelling discharge.

Prevention/Treatment

There’s dire need to prevent VVF in developing countries and this can be achieved by heeding to the following pieces of advice;

  1. Child marriage and early pregnancies should be discouraged.
  2. Elimination of poverty and improvement of women’s social status.
  3. Educating and sensitizing women across Africa.
  4. Establishment of specialized fistula centres by the government.
  5. Stiff punishment should be meted out to rapists.
  6. Adequate health facilities should be provided for pregnant women.
  7. Abolition of traditions and beliefs that encourages child marriage.
  8. Availability of specialized surgeons to carry out the surgical repair of fistula cases.
  9. Job opportunities for men because it is an idle mind that the devil would want to use to harass a woman.

Treatment                                                                              

The treatment of VVF is by surgical repair.

After repair, make sure you religiously adhere to all the instructions given by the doctor. Also, if you notice any sign of infection such as redness, swelling, tenderness, or fever relay it immediately to your doctor.

One Nigerian that has been on the fore-front of ridding our society of this menace is Stephanie Linus. In 2014, her foundation carried out repair surgery on 22 women.  Read about it here. A big kudos to her! More people and the government should join in this drive.

Please your comment to this post is important. If you have any material or know of any special management practice that could be of help to those facing this condition, please feel free to share.

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