With many medical conditions, our pain and suffering are easily visible. However, urologic problems often go unnoticed or even concealed given the nature of the disease.⁠ By introducing the “Hidden Faces of Urology” campaign, we at IVUmed want to bring awareness to what you may not see…⁠

The story of Gimbiya and Vesicovaginal Fistulas is all too familiar to women in Africa. ⁠

Vesicovaginal fistula (VVF) is a devastating, extremely common, and correctible medical problem afflicting countless women in the developing world. In Africa alone, it is estimated that a million or more women suffer from the condition (with 30,000 and 130,000 new cases occurring each year), along with millions more throughout Asia, the Indian sub-continent, and South America. The disorder is generally caused by prolonged, obstructed labor which, in some cases, can last up to several days. During labor, the baby’s skull presses against the soft tissues of the mother’s pelvis, cutting off the blood supply.  If the condition lasts for more than three hours, the tissues die, leaving an opening between the bladder and the vagina. As a result, the mother leaks urine continuously.

In addition to the severe health problems associated with these conditions, women who develop VVF face severe social persecution. Due to the smell and the stigma of leaking, they are often divorced by their husbands and ostracized by their families and communities. The social isolation compounds the woman’s own belief that she is a disgrace and has brought shame on her family. Women with VVF often work alone, eat alone, and in some cases, they must live on the streets.

A long-time volunteer and IVU board member, Dr. Joe Costa states, “Women who have had complications involved with birthing children are sometimes left with devastating injuries to their bladder. These injuries may result in urine constantly leaking from their body and the inability to store urine as the vast majority of people do. This malady often results in women being socially isolated and sentenced to a life as if a recluse. ⁠Surgical repairs such as those taught in a fistula workshop not only restore urinary continence but elevate a woman’s ability to participate in life again. The impact of this restoration cannot be understated. The reward is everlasting.”⁠

Help make more miracles possible by donating today. By enabling IVUmed teams to teach and care for people in low-resource areas, they bring hope and new resources for surgical care. Together we can change the world for the better.