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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Obstetric Fistula Surgery Begins

Surgery began at the end of February for Mercy Ships obstetric fistula program. Obstetric fistula is a childbirth injury that leaves women incontinent and often makes them outcasts in their communities. Volunteer surgeon Dr. Itengre Ouedraogo has joined us in Pointe Noire, Congo to provide free surgeries to these women.  “We had another successful screening Wednesday with more operations scheduled.” Obstetric Fistula Team Leader Stephanie Fiduk says, “Dr. Itengre Ouedraogo is great to work with; he is patient, very astute, and great with the patients.  Overall I would say that there is an amazing peace surrounding the fistula program.  I’m looking forward to what God has for the next few weeks, and for more lives to change.” To learn more about Mercy Ships obstetric fistula program watch this video: http://youtu.be/lVYX_G5K_hY

Dr. Ouedraogo took some time out to be interviewed by our communications team:
You can easily point to his homeland of Burkina Faso on a map—but Dr. Ouedraogo prefers to call Africa his home. This pan-African obstetric surgeon received his medical and surgical education in Cuba. Soon after, he earned his Masters in Epidemiology and Humanitarian Aid.
So are we! But Dr. Ouedraogo gives all the glory to God: “The fact that I am a surgeon today is a divine grace of God’s—He has a specific goal for me.”
Dr. Ouedraogo has chosen to dedicate his life and skill to the forgotten and ostracized people of his beloved continent. He is currently ‘vacationing’ from his role as medical director of a fistula center in Niger so he can serve with us onboard in the Congo. Wherever he goes, Dr. Ouedraogo is working to provide life-changing surgery to women who have sustained traumatic childbirth injuries.

Tell us why you chose to serve with Mercy Ships.
Through Mercy Ship, the dignity of the outcast is rebuilt. Mercy Ships gives the opportunity to people from all nations to demonstrate their passion for the forgotten.  Yes, as an obstetric surgeon, maybe it’s true that I could get more money and popularity working in a big city and a big hospital. But every time I see a woman joyful because she is healed, I know I have contributed to the reintegration of an outcast into her society. I have helped rebuild a broken house. So, when Mercy Ships accepted my application this year to serve as fistula surgeon, I felt it was an honor. It is like I am adding my block to the building of the new Africa that Mercy Ships is helping to build.

In your own words, describe Africa.
I see Africa as a sleeping giant who needs to be awakened. Africa has great potential for development due to its natural and human resources. There is a popular saying in my tongue that says, “You cannot clean the flour on the floor with one hand.” I think what is needed in Africa is that other strong hand—which in my personal opinion is the developed world—to awaken him and wash his face so that the direction for real development can be found. Up ‘til now, Africa has been receiving so much help from the West— but truly, it is better to teach how to fish rather than giving the fish.

If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?
I would say that maybe for the world we are one person, but for one person we are the world. We cannot change the entire world, but we can change the world of somebody. Let everybody seek and accomplish the purpose of God for his life, because mortals become immortal by the things they do and that remain after them.
It's great to have Dr. Ouedraogo working alongside us.
The women began arriving in Pointe Noire with the hope of receiving life changing surgeries to repair obstetric fistulas. Fistulas of this kind typically occur as a result of prolonged obstructed labor during child birth. While the surgeries can repair the physical damage, much care is taken in offering healing for the women’s spirits as well.  Please pray for the women who are traveling to the ship to receive surgery, that they may arrive safely and experience complete healing.

The hospital wards soon filled with dancing and singing in celebration of lives transformed.  Once healed each lady is given a new dress and we hold a dress ceremony to celebrate them being dry.  The celebration soon echo through the hallways of the Africa Mercy hospital. Women who were once living with the difficulties related to obstetric fistulas are now returning home - healed.
 Pray with us for the women to be embraced by their families and to find joy in the new beginning.

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