After 9 years at HEAL Africa, and twelve surgeries, Nyirana Mataiya is healthy and going home. She came to HEAL Africa with a complicated fistula, a tear in the vaginal or rectal wall resulting in incontinence. Nyirana’s fistula was the result of rape. In 2000, when she was 8 months pregnant, militias in the Masisi Mountains where she is from, captured her, held her hostage and five armed men sexually assaulted her. In addition to being left with a particularly severe fistula, she lost her baby as a result of the assault.
Nyirana arrived at HEAL Africa three years later. She had first returned home and tried to hide her misery and pain from her family and friends because she was so ashamed of what had happened. She felt desperate, certain there would never be a cure for her. When she first came to HEAL Africa, there were even doctors that doubted her especially complicated case could be repaired. While a patient at HEAL Africa, thanks to the compassion of doctors, counselors and other staff, hope began to return – slowly at first, but steadily.
Her first few surgeries were unsuccessful. There were some experienced western doctors that came through the hospital and three of them tried at various times to repair the damage, all unsuccessfully. Finally, after her tenth surgery, Nyirana started to feel improvement. “I saw a change after my operation in November, 2011” says the 35 year old woman. “In March, Dr. Christophe Kimona (of HEAL Africa) completed the twelfth operation, and I awoke from the anesthesia sure I was cured”. No one can fully understand the joy she felt in that moment.
During her stay at HEAL Africa and some of the various women’s centers, Nyirana experienced so much more than just medical treatment: “I have learned how to bake, to breed rabbits, goats, and ducks, and how to make clothes.” She now has the skills she needs to support herself and rebuild her life when she returns home.
Not surprisingly, she has a lot of fears and concerns about returning home. At the time she was raped, she had only been married for one year. In the years she’s been gone, her husband has married two more times. She also is worried she will no longer be accustomed to the difficult living conditions that come with living in the remote mountains. Nyirana still remembers her first impressions of HEAL Africa, “There was this beautiful panorama of Lake Kivu, and fresh air.” She has watched as HEAL Africa has grown during her stay – new buildings have popped up as the hospital has expanded to meet the ever increasing needs of patients and the surrounding community. She says that in all these years, only one thing has not changed at HEAL Africa, “The counselors who are welcoming the women are as caring as always”.
*Name changed for security reasons.