Wednesday, October 3, 2007

"A Walk to Beautiful"

Last evening we had the amazing opportunity to preview an upcoming PBS documentary called "A Walk to Beautiful" about five women in Ethiopia and the Fistula Hospital in Addis. This showing was the only non-film festival showing in the US prior to the release of the movie. We were so honored to be able to see this amazing documentary.

I went to see my OB/GYN last week for my annual appointment -- she spent 2 months working in the Fistula hospital prior to returning to the states and joining her current practice. When I told her about Pickles, she told me about the movie. I am so glad we went!!!

"A Walk to Beautiful" captures the stories of four Ethiopian women from the ages of late teens to a mother of five, age 38. Life in Ethiopia is very hard, especially for the women. Like women in most of the developing world, they tend to do the most difficult, dirty work, yet generally do not have access to the few opportunities that exist for an education and a good job. As early as 2 years of age, they are carrying huge pottery jars of water back and forth to their village. The result of carrying more than they are physically capable, coupled with a negative calorie input, their growth is stunted. Their culture requires many of them to be married off at a young age -- sometimes as young as 10 -- and often start bearing children by their early teens. Fathers marry them off young in order to protect them from being abducted and raped. Childbirth rarely occurs with a qualified attendant, much less at a hospital. Problems during delivery occur from small pelvises from stunted growth which lengthens labor to up to 7 days. The babies often die, are born stillborn or have to be removed physically. One women in the film states the baby had to be "pulled out of her."

A common injury is called an obstetrical fistula, which occurs when the baby tears a hole into the bladder and/or rectum, causing the mother to become permanently incontinent which results in a constant urine smell. One of the women in the film was filmed during her journey to Addis; we witnessed the shame and the shunning of the other passengers on the bus. She was lucky, one woman walked almost 17 hours alone to get to Addis. When a fistula occurs, the husband almost always abandons his wife, she has no choice but to return to her family, often to be rejected again. These women have lives of unspeakable misery. Many are isolated in their villages, shunned and shamed; one didn’t leave her bed, much less her family’s hut, for nine years before making her way to the Fistula Hospital.

The Fistula Hospital in Addis specializes in the relatively simple surgical procedure that repairs the fistulas, allowing the patients to return to normal life and even bear children again. It heals more than 1,000 women annually. The Public Relations person for the Fistula hospital stated last evening that a normal fistula repair surgery is a mere $450.00. Complications are higher, but the services are performed free of charge to all patients.

I cannot even begin to put into words the impact this film has had on me and my family. I was hesitant to bring Squeeker with us, but was glad I had made the decision. The film was done tastefully, including the surgery scenes which were not overly graphic. The scenes that actually showed the leakage were done with the utmost respect for these women. Yet, you looked into their eyes and felt their shame.

My husband has spent many years travelling internationally, including many months working with orphans in Romania. This morning he commented that in all of his years travelling internationally, he has never witnessed such poverty.

When we look globally at the problem of fistula, it at first seems overwhelming and impossible. This film gives hope, that one person can indeed make a difference. As a family adopting a little girl from Ethiopia, I know that we HAVE to do something to help. Please, watch the film when it comes out next year on PBS, and pray about how you can help.

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