Sixteen-year-old Fanny sat with her mother as she told her story. Her infant, Kasongo, cooed happily in her lap.
Together, their family represents three generations of fistula heroes.
Fanny’s baby is a miracle. Infants rarely survive the type of wrenching, prolonged labor that causes obstetric fistula. Too often, when a young woman starts leaking urine after delivery, she is also grieving the irreparable loss of a child.
Throughout Fanny's traumatic labor, her mother, Dorcas, stayed by her side. After 72 hours of excruciating pain, their family transported Fanny from their island home to the mainland by the only means they could afford—rowing in a canoe for six hours. Miraculously, both Fanny and her child survived. But she was left leaking urine uncontrollably.
Dorcas refused to give up on her daughter. A tenacious woman with an engaging personality, Dorcas poured all of her energy into finding a cure. She visited doctors, chiefs, and anyone with influence in the community. When they couldn't help, she wouldn't take "no" for an answer. Dorcas had anticipated a bright future for Fanny, and refused to believe that her daughter was incurable.
Finally, they heard a radio announcement about a condition called obstetric fistula. One month later, Fanny was on her way to Mansa General Hospital, a partner in Fistula Foundation's nationwide treatment network in Zambia. There, she received life-changing repair surgery.
Today, Fanny and Dorcas are both outspoken fistula advocates in their community. They want to make sure no other woman is forced to suffer the way that Fanny did.