Fetenech Belay is originally from a small village around Chagni, Northern Ethiopia, some 600 kms away from Addis Ababa, the capital city. She estimates her age to about 28. Her parents never told her how old exactly she was. So she estimates. She estimates when she was born, when she got married, when she got first pregnant, and above all, when she became the victim of fistula- double fistula to the worst, the term she later came to know.
She remembers when she got married to an older man, likely twice her age. She was much less than 15, too young to get married, but that was the reality she had to face. Because her parents wanted, and she had to comply with. She married, and immediately became pregnant.
There came the challenge-the challenge to safely give birth. She labored for three days at home, but became unsuccessful. The baby was stillborn, and the situation left her with double fistula, incontinent of both urine and defecation. A devastating life crisis, something she had never imagined of.
Six years ago, after living awful life with urinary incontinence for years, she visited Bahir Dar Hamlin Fistula Center, 150 kms far from her village, for any hope. A relative who had heard about her devastating life recommended her to the Center. Considering the severity of her case, the Center referred her to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. She received colostomy treatment, a surgical operation in which the colon is shortened to remove the damaged part and the cut end diverted to an opening in the abdominal wall, at the hospital. It was a successful treatment. “I didn’t know first that there was a treatment for my case. I thought I could live with it throughout my life, but my God guided me to the Center and then to the Hospital. I received all the treatment at the Hospital, and got dry. I didn’t believe that the incontinence had gone. I didn’t know what fistula was, but I knew I was living a terrible life,” she recalls.
As her injuries were severe, Fetenech started living at Desta Mender (Joy Village), a Rehabilitation Wing of the Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia. Here, while receiving ongoing treatment, she was screened for a full rehabilitation-training package. Following the trainings on life and business skills, among others, she was assisted to work at Juniper Café and involve in dairy farming at the Desta Mender.
Two years ago, after working at Desta Mender for three years, she wanted to start a new business of her own. With the seed money she received from Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, she opened a coffee house very close to Desta Mender. Her business has gone as planned, and she is busy every day serving strong and tasty Ethiopian coffee to her customers. She lives with her second husband and says she is very happy now. “I never had thought of living outside my village. Everything is for good. Thanks to ‘Emmaye’s [Dr. Catherine’s] holistic support. I got cured from the dreadful double fistula injuries and have started my own business. There is a bright future ahead of me now,” she said. “I wonder what my life would be if Emmaye has not been around, and of course, to your surprise, I don’t want to think about that. It’s hard to imagine. Everything makes me cry. The fistula pain I went through makes me cry. The support Emmaye has provided me makes me cry, though tears of joy. I’m born again, and want to focus on my bright future,” She added.