By Chioma Obinna
When 35-year -old Agbowo Lebechi was pregnant for her sixth child; little did she know that no two pregnancies are the same. Lebechi, a native of Nkalagu in Ishielu LGA, Ebonyi State had had five children without any complication.
Married as a virgin at age 18, Lebechi’s dream was to have as many children as possible. Sadly, her determination to have more children after five successful natural births brought so much stress, no thanks to prolonged obstructed labour which led to obstetric fistula, a condition characterised by leakage of urine and faeces.
Medical doctors say it is an abnormal hole in-between the bladder and the vagina or the rectum and leaves its victims with permanent incontinent. And such was the fate of Lebechi after she was finally delivered of her baby through caesarean section (CS) in one of the private hospitals in her town.
Unfortunately, Lebechi could not celebrate the birth of her child because moments after the child was delivered, she began to leak urine uncontrollably. She had developed Vesico Vaginal Fistula, VVF.
Lebechi had never visited any hospital right from day one of her first pregnancy to the sixth pregnancy which almost took her life. She is one out of the unconfirmed 75 percent of pregnant women that patronise Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) or other unskilled medical personnel.
Meanwhile, unlike the usual case for many women with VVF, Lebechi’s child survived.
She is also one of the thousands of VVF patients repaired at the National Obstetric Fistula Centre, Abakaliki. Recounting her story in an emotion laden voice to Sunday Vanguard, she said: “My experience with fistula was better imagined than experienced. I do not wish that to my enemy.”
“If I had known, if I had not delayed, if I had not thought that the labour will be like the first five children I had, I would not have found myself in this condition.”
“Getting to the hospital after days of labour at home, the doctor said I will not be able to have the baby that he will do surgery to remove the child.”
“After the successful surgery, the leakage did not start immediately; it was after I was discharged it started.
“After we were discharged, first I did not understand it immediately. We were brought back to the hospital for examination. The doctor explained to us that I have to undergo another surgery,” Lebechi said.
“Living with the condition was not easy. I could not enjoy my married life anymore. Having sex with my husband was not possible. I almost lost my sexual life,”she stated.
Disturbed by the news, she opened up to her neighbours.
Her years of tears and sleepless nights came to an end when one of the neighbours she discussed the problem with, directed her to the centre. “It is now two months since I came here. I have been repaired.”
She says she is now on family planning. “I did not pay any money for anything here. I was treated free of charge. I am happy now but before I was disturbed. It pained me so much but now I thank God. I pray it will not come back again. I pray that God will help the people God used to bless me. I will encourage all women to go to the hospital immediately they are pregnant to avoid this problem” she added.
Lebechi explains that if she had known the importance of hospital delivery, regular antenatal and good nutrition, she would have prevented her sad encounter with obstetric fistula.
According to her, she is happy to now know of the many benefits of hospital delivery where skilled medical workers attend to pregnant women. “My greatest happiness now is that I am now on family planning and my baby survived after the CS. I don’t want to have any more children. I have six children and five were delivered in the house, Lebechi stated”. 12,000 new cases of Fistula are recorded in Nigeria annually and about 150,000 women and girls are living with Fistula at any given time in the country.