Inviolata Nabwire got pregnant at 16. She could not deliver and an operation to get rid of a dead foetus left her ‘leaking urine’
She was born a normal child, but this changed when she turned 16. Inviolata Nabwire has lived with the nightmare of a ‘ruined reproductive system’ due to complications she got after a C-section 24 years ago. She became pregnant after a forced marriage by her aunts and grandfather.
Born in Murumba, Busia County in 1975, Nabwire, a fourth born in a family of seven was left to cater and care for her three younger siblings after her father’s death while she was in Class Two. Due to poverty, her mother ran away in year 1989 (two years after their father died) to Kitale where she was employed as a househelp leaving Nabwire in the hands of her grandfather and two aunts.
The younger siblings followed their mother to Kitale. Life became difficult and her two aunts and grandfather conspired to marry her off at the age of 15. “My two aunts had identified each a man for me. They said I was a burden and marriage would make things easier,” she recalls. She bowed to her aunts’ pressure and got married in 1990 when she was 15. A year later, she was pregnant.
Tragedy struck her when she was taken to Busia District Hospital to deliver. She claims to have had an epileptic attack and she was unconscious for two days. “When I became conscious, I was confused as my baby had died in the womb. This was the beginning of my nightmare and plight because I was not well flushed,” says Nabwire. She stayed in the hospital for two months where she alleges the doctor who attended to her ‘cut extensively’ her private part to remove the foetus and the cut was not well dressed.
Her health continued to worsen and she was taken to St Mary’s Hospital in Mumias for another one-and-a half months for specialised treatment. Nabwire alleges the extensive cut in her private part during her aborted delivery was not nursed and treated well. She developed enteroviginal fistula and she has been in and out of hospital since 1991. A vaginal fistula that opens into the small bowel is called a enterovaginal fistula and it starts with some kind of tissue damage.
Experts say early marriage leads to early sexual contact and subsequent pregnancy at a time when a young girl is not adequately physically developed to permit the passage of a baby with relative ease. “The wound was smelly. I was in pain and it brought shame since I could not hold back urine,” she says. She claims another doctor did skin grafting to block the hole in 1997. Nabwire says she was also warned against having sexual intercourse since it would ‘destroy’ her reproductive system.
According to Dr Samuel Kagwi, a private practitioner and the Nakuru County Reproductive Health Network Chairman, Nabwire’s condition is unfortunate and professional negligence. He says Nabwire will need a surgery estimated to cost Sh1.5 million. Dr Kagwi says the constructive surgery can only be done in phases. He says the operation may restore her womb or not. “She needs a major operation because her private part was extensively damaged as the organs around are made of soft tissue,” he says.
Dr Kagwi points out that Nabwire’s condition is a result of botched surgery and lack of specialised treatment. She uses Sh1,000 a month for clinic and hopes well-wishers can contribute to her surgery kitty. “I am optimistic that if I get money for the surgery, I may save my reproductive organs and save my face from the embarrassment of being barren. I am fertile and eager to hold my baby in my arms,” she says.
She points out that, with menopause approaching, she has contemplated seeking services of a surrogate mother to get a child. However, she does not have the means or the knowledge to think about the option much. Nabwire, although married, says she has not had sex for over 24 years. “My husband accepted to marry me for companionship and not reproduction,” she says. Her condition has made her declared a person living with disabilities.
“I have been registered as disabled by the government and I feel frustrated that a medical goof has cost me my womanhood,” she says. According to experts, the main treatment for all types of fistulas remains surgical repair. The success and recovery rate from an operation to correct simple fistula is high.