Cicile Ahamogbe stands in front of a room full people. Tears well up in her eyes. “If I cry,” she says, “they are tears of joy. I could stand here forever, and cry and cry and cry tears of joy. Dr. Arrowsmith and all the nurses, how can I thank you?”
Cicile, 44 years old, suffered from a condition called vesicovaginal fistula, or VVF. This problem, common in countries where there is a lack of obstetric care, occurs when a woman is in labor for long periods of time without medical help. The pressure of the baby causes a hole to form between the bladder and the vagina. The result is an uncontrolled flow of urine.
Cicile endured unbearable situations. She was incontinent for a year and a half, and she was treated as an outcast because of the odor of urine. The problem was caused when she was in labor for three days before finally receiving a cesarean section. Her beautiful daughter, Destino, is lucky to be alive.
Cicile lives in Kpalime, a town about three hours north of Lomé. She learned to cope with her problem during the day by going to the bathroom constantly. But at night the problem was most evident. She explains, “I would wake up in the night with the children sleeping in my bed, and we would all be wet—the blanket, my clothes, their clothes, everything.”
It became very difficult for Cicile to provide for her children. Sometimes her husband sent money, but for the most part Cicile had little or no money to feed or clothe her kids. The incontinence kept her in her house—very alone.
Before coming to the Africa Mercy, Cecile did not know anyone who had the same problem as she did. Once she arrived at the hospital ship, however, she met several women just like her, and she will return to Kpalime with a support system that will be invaluable. She says, “It helps to know others like you. I hope that we will all leave here dry. I have faith that the doctors and nurses of Mercy Ships can take care of us.”
Cicile’s faith held true. Today, she attends her dress ceremony. She stands in a maroon dress with a white beaded necklace. She smells of lavender. She is surrounded by four other women. She is crying tears of joy. After two surgeries by VVF surgeon Dr. Steve Arrowsmith, Cicile stands triumphant. “I am dry!” she exclaims. “I am dry forever!”
The dress ceremony celebrates rebirth. The women who have successful surgeries are given a new life, and that calls for celebration! They are no longer outcasts, and they are able to stand among their peers without shame. It is a wonderful day when VVF ladies, like Cicile, get to dance in a dress ceremony.
Cicile knows she is blessed. She poignantly states, “Thanks to Mercy Ships, today my beauty has been restored. The ugliness is gone.”
–From CWR partner, Mercy Ships. Cicile was a beneficiary of our recent project in Togo.