In 2004, we met Dr. Catherine Hamlin, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee who has devoted nearly 50 years providing free reconstructive surgery to more than 25,000 African girls and women suffering from fistulas at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital that she opened with her late husband, Reginald.
Fistulas are holes that develop in the tissue that separates the vagina from the bladder and/or rectum during labor because the mothers (often young teenagers) have small pelvises or a poorly positioned fetus. In the United States, this condition could be avoided by caesarean section, but in many developing countries, poverty prevents women from getting proper treatment. Untreated, the fistula causes a constant stream of urine, and sometimes feces, to drip, leaving a trail and odor wherever these young mothers go. In Ethiopia, thousands of young girls suffer from this devastating condition.
After Dr. Hamlin's visit to the show, thousands of viewers were compelled to act. The Fistula Foundation, which supports Dr. Hamlin's hospital, received more than $3 million in donations.