Day 7-10: Today was the flight to Cox Bazaar! It was an exciting day as Cox Bazaar was where the main part of the Fight Fistula project was based. On my previous family trips to Bangladesh, I had only ever heard about the beauty of this area, so I was super keen to see if for myself.
Although early morning starts had become normal by now, we just about woke up and were ready for our VERY early morning flight to the airport! Once we had checked in, we relaxed for the day and celebrated our first Selfless Birthday at midnight.
The next day we attended HOPE Foundation Hospital where we would be based for the rest of our time in Cox’s Bazaar. After formal introductions, Dr Shuaib gave us a tour of the hospital and familiarised us with the clinic rooms. In the afternoon, I had the opportunity to shadow Dr Shuaib and get involved with interviewing patients in clinic. The first woman I saw in this clinic had come in with breathlessness and a fever. On taking her social history I learned of her daily struggles during the monsoon season. She told me of her home being flooded due to the recent storm and that she had waited for the water to reside, enough for her to travel (a long way) to seek medical attention that day. When I told her that we were visiting Bangladesh for a short period, she smiled and invited us to her village and was very eager to show us the culture of Bangladesh, even though she was going through her own struggles. Certainly a humbling experience and a prime example of the kindness of the Bangladeshi people.
When we weren’t in clinics, we made use of our time in hospital with peer teaching and Bangla language lessons. We were also lucky to have teaching delivered by the doctors working at HOPE hospital who gave us a perspective of their work.
Day 11: My first time observing a fistula surgery. I met many fistula patients during my time in Hope Hospital. Some of these girls were the same age as me. Others were much older and had lived with the debilitating effects of obstetric fistulas for many years. Women spoke of their constant incontinence, their husbands leaving them, losing jobs and much more social effects of their condition. It was very sad hearing their stories.
The woman in the photo is having her fistula repaired after suffering with it for 26 years. It occurred during the obstructed labour of her first child at the age of 15. She only had her first repair one year ago but unfortunately the fistula recurred so she is having a second repair. The operation wasn’t under general anaesthetic so I was able to speak to her during her surgery. No family member had accompanied her to the hospital. I may not have physically helped cure her condition while I was there, but I am glad I was with her so that she didn’t have to face the procedure it alone.
Day 12-14: We met a 14 year old boy, who’d endured a horrible injury to his knee 6 weeks prior to attending the general medicine clinic at Hope Hopsital. He is the eldest son with a deceased father, so his mother bought him to the hospital while we were there. The knee was infected and needed further investigations for TB/bone cancer. His mother was very upset as they were from a very poor background and could barely afford to come and see a doctor, never mind referrals for specialist care. Without specialist care (and possibly an amputation), this young boy could lose his life. The solution? Money.
In the follow up of this case, we got the know the family a little better and we were glad to witness a smile on his mother’s face as Hope hospital and the Selfless team supported them through this avoidable ordeal. It was strange to know that cases like this just don’t happen in the UK as most people wouldn’t avoid seeing a doctor on the basis of lack of funds. This is just one of many cases in Bangladesh.