Seeing the VVF screening yesterday morning on the ship helped me understand another part of the journey the women go through. After travelling a long way, from the North of Benin or from neighbouring countries they stayed in the converted warehouse until they could be screened, then came to the ship where they waited for a short time with many other people on the dock. We then brought the ladies in to a waiting area after trying to establish who is who, what language they speak and which translator may or may not speak the same language. After locating the translator somewhere in the hospital the women go to an admissions area where they have their history taken and then some blood taken in preparation for surgery. They then see the VVF surgeon to have a gynaecological assesssment and decide a plan for surgery and another Doctor for a physical assessment. One of the VVF surgeons was welcomed at the crew meeting yesterday morning so they are going to have a busy couple of weeks here! I think they said another 27 women were being screened which is great considering how few came initially.
Sitting listening to 2 ladies histories was interesting - both the same problem, but one had developed the problem after her second (live, caesarian) birth, the baby (and therefore the problem) was only 3 months old and her husband was at home, the other lady had delivered a dead baby (also by caesarian section) 12 years ago, been incontinent since and been divorced. I know this is much more the more common pattern of events, of the 27 probably there was only another one or two ladies with any living children but still it is so hard trying to understand what it must feel like, having been through so much, being rejected and alone for years, and then coming to a big white ship, which must be pretty terrifying and yet maybe give a glimmer of hope that they might soon be well again.
I wonder if the women with live children feel more grateful that they were born alive after spending the day with a room full of other women with the same problem but who weren't so lucky. I definitely do.