A while back, I kicked off a little 'series' called "Amazing Babes". I started by introducing you to Tavi Gevinson, an amazing babe, obviously, otherwise she would not have been featured here. (if you missed it, click here)

Today I am thrilled to write about amazing amaaaaaaazing flipping out-of-this-world amazing babe #2 -

Catherine Hamlin.

If you have not heard about her, today is as good a day as any to meet her..

Elinor Catherine Hamlin was born at home in Sydney, Australia on 24 January 1924, meaning she turned 90 this year! (please click here to see her birthday registry, easy way to get involved..)

Between 1924 and 2014 Dr Hamlin has achieved more than most, co-founding the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital with her husband Reg and spending more than half a century living in Ethiopia, serving some of the most marginalised women in the world.

'In Australia, pregnant mothers focus on making their baby’s birth 'beautiful' and 'powerful' – we think about bath oils, ambience, music and massages.  And while we worry about the pain, we know we will have professional assistance.  In Ethiopia, most women hope their baby doesn’t die, doesn’t kill them or doesn’t damage them. 

In Australia, if labor is obstructed, there’s a quick chat and a caesarian. In Ethiopia, a woman may have to walk for days for help only to die at a hospital gate. With only 200 obstetricians serving a nation of 91 million, childbirth is dangerous.  Nine thousand women die every year and the same amount survive only to be badly damaged. 

For these women a long obstructed labor breaks the lining between the vagina and the bladder or bowel.  This fistula makes the women incontinent and in a land with little running water or sanitation, they smell and are then rejected, hidden, shamed or even seen as cursed.

When Catherine Hamlin and her late husband Reg arrived in Ethiopia in 1959 to train midwives, they’d never seen an obstetric fistula case.  Yet they became their life’s work.

There are now six obstetric fistula hospitals in Ethiopia run by local staff. "We don’t treat the hole in the bladder we treat the whole person.  Patients are given kindness, acceptance, surgery, a new dress, some literacy and numeracy, a plan for business and then sent them off on a new trajectory for life", says Lucy Perry, CEO of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia.  

There are also search and rescue vehicles that travel into the country and find women hidden away in shame.  Other women walk for miles - some even from Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea with dead babies inside them for help from Hamlin’s staff. One walked 450 kilometers for treatment.  None are turned away.  Former patients are told to begin walking to the hospital when a new baby begins to walk inside them.  They are then fed, cared for and given caesarians to prevent re-injury.

Dr Hamlin’s organisation has also set up a University for midwives.  After earning their degree they are set up back to their region to help women in childbirth and family planning.  “Eleven have graduated and since then we’ve not had one maternal death in those regions,” says Lucy. “I still give myself goose bumps telling you that.”

('How Catherine Hamlin brought safe birthing to Ethiopia', Sarah Macdonald)

At age 90, Dr Hamlin still takes an active role in the leadership of the hospital and lives in her cottage on the banks of the river within the hospital grounds.

If this Amazing Babe has inspired and compelled you to make a difference, watch this and get involved - 

1 Response

western suburbs electrical
western suburbs electrical

June 26, 2014

Amazing story and an amazing woman!

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