Sharon Korir: I survived obstetric fistula

Who is Sharon? I'm a mother of two, a lawyer by profession and a teacher. I am also an ambassador of women with fistula.

You founded "the save of a woman fistula foundation", what prompted you to start this drive? Four years ago, my life drastically came to a standstill after the birth of my second child. I was diagnosed with obstetric fistula, meaning I was uncontrollably leaking both faecal matter and urine. Obstetric fistula is a tear from the vagina all the way to the rectum. It's mainly caused by prolonged labour. Weeks after I was discharged from hospital, I noticed the leaking, which was accompanied by an awful smell of faeces. At first, I thought that due to the prolonged stay in hospital I was losing it. It was such a traumatic journey, my sexual life, social life and character changed.

How come you didn't notice the leaking until after you were discharged from hospital?

After giving birth, my baby had issues with bilirubin so I had to stay in the hospital for 21 days. The baby had to undergo blood transfusion, where all his blood was to be removed from his system and replaced with fresh blood. Being an invasive procedure for a three-day-old baby, I had to put a keen eye on him, especially after I learnt that kids with such condition are likely to suffer from cerebral palsy or autism. I did all I could to ensure the process was successful. With all this in my mind, I placed all focus on the baby and had less time for myself. Nonetheless, I had noticed an unusual leaking and shared with the nurse, who advised me to do Kegel every time I go for a call.

When you noticed the leaking after you were discharged, what action did you take?

Leave alone the leak, the smell I was discharging just sent me off. After a keen observation I realised that I was discharging stool from the vagina. My sanitary towels were always soaked with stool. At first, I thought I had gone mad, I decided to give myself two weeks to confirm my worries. Unfortunately, nothing was changing. I then called my sister-in-law who is a nurse and shared with her what was happening to me.

What did she tell you?

After explaining to her, she told me that she suspected I could be suffering from fistula and should go to Kenyatta National Hospital for screening. Luckily at that time, KNH was having a medical camp. When I shared the same story with my neighbour, who was also my good friend, she also opened up and told me that she had been silently suffering from the same condition for about 20 years. Together we went to KNH and after screening, we were diagnosed with obstetric fistula.

How did you receive the information and did it affect you?

It was shocking. All the excitement I had for my family and friends to visit after I had my baby was washed away. I tried as much as I could to avoid people. I became cold and devastated and I had a lot of questions running through my mind; like will I be ok again? Will I satisfy my husband or where did I go wrong to disserve this?

How did you overcome this?

I'm an optimist, I kept being positive all through, though I had some fears. For instance, I thought, to whom would I leave my infant when I went for reconstruction? Then came another challenge of infections, which affected intimacy with my spouse. However, after six months of struggles, I managed to get a doctor and went for reconstructive surgery.

Was it successful?

Of course, for me to come out and share my story, it definitely means my surgery went on well.

What does your foundation focus on?

We mainly encourage women with fistula by walking the journey with them. We do counselling as well as source for doctors for them for reconstruction.

Any important word to close with?

The most important advice I would give to any woman who is going through this thorn silently is to step out and share her story, so she can get help. I know for many it's a taboo but I would rather we get a solution than live with the problem.