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Gisele, Congo 2014


She was 28 years old and expecting a baby. Gisele was elated with the anticipation of motherhood – until she lost her baby during a prolonged, obstructed labour in her Congolese village. 

Added to the physical pain of the traumatic birth and the heartbreak of losing her baby, Gisele had developed a birth injury – an obstetric fistula. It left her incontinent. Now she carried an accompanying emotional burden – her husband’s rejection. Realising that his wife would probably never have children, he left to take another wife because he still wanted children. He told Gisele, ‘With you, I am wasting my time.’

Due to the odour and the stigma around her condition, Gisele withdrew into a life of solitude. She lived with a steady stream of urine trickling down her legs for 20 years before she heard about free fistula surgeries onboard the Africa Mercy.

Gisele used to wake up all night long to change her wet clothes. But, since her free obstetric fistula surgery on board the Mercy Ship, she says, ‘Now I am comfortable when I sleep. My bed is not wet anymore.’

As she recovered with other women receiving the same surgery, Gisele learned to knit. She contentedly hummed between conversations with the women in the beds on either side of her. Gisele is dry and no longer alone. ‘Ajuord’hui ce’est bon,’ she declared. Today is a good day.

Watch the video of Gisele’s story here

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