How traditional birth attendant cut woman into 11-year agony

Joyce Mutama ,31. She has had to undergo six surgeries after a delivery mishap 11 years ago. [Graham Kajilwa, Standard]

Words are not enough to tell of the pain Joyce Mutama has been through.

All because of a simple mistake in the hands of a traditional birth attendant-an elderly woman who ended up slashing her rectum and sewed it back to her vagina.

This left her with no natural control of her bowel movements. Stool flowed freely whenever she walked or bent to perform simple chores.

“During the delivery process, she said the opening was too tiny so she had to cut me open,” narrates Mutama.

It is that cut that caused an 11-year nightmare for the then 19-year-old. It was 2006, and she had sought refuge at her partner’s after getting pregnant, her parents not aware where she was.

As the world will be commemorating the United Nations International Day to end Fistula on Wednesday May 23, a now healed Mutama, 31, who works with Safaricom’s partner Freedom from Fistula Foundation will be in Embu County to share her story.

A story that saw her retreat to indoors left with a task of cleaning herself every now and then.

Even when she gathered courage and went back to her parents, she never revealed of her turmoil.

“I joined college but dropped out after some few months. The shame was just too much,” she says. “I went to an extent of starving myself so that I do not have the urge to pass stool.”

But it is when she decided to go back to class as a Community Health student when she moved with her husband in Lodwar in 2014 that she learnt that fistula can be corrected. The, she opened up to her sister and sought treatment.

But one week after the surgery, the wound re-opened. She went back to the hospital and was informed she need another surgery. Three days later, it was discovered that not the whole hole on her privates was sewed up.

“I was told to wait for three months before I can go for another surgery. I did not. There was still a gaping opening between my rectum and vagina. You could actually see the stool passing,” she narrates.

Eight months later, her state grew worse and she had to be flown from Lodwar to Kitale where she underwent another operation.

“By this time the tissues were so damaged due to the constant operations,” she says. So after one month, and no improvement, she made a decision not to seek any further medical attention.

It took a lot of convincing from a friend for her to try Kenyatta National Hospital and in May 2016, she had her fourth operation: “But after one week, I felt the wound re-opening again. I cried. It was exhausting and painful. I just gave up.”

A cousin whom she was staying with in Nairobi as she underwent treatment suggested she try her family doctor.

This came with hope but she had to undergo two more procedures. One was to divert stool from her rectum to her stomach through a colostomy. For nine months to five room for rectum and vagina to heal.

The colostomy was then removed marking her last procedure in January 2017.