Guest / Limited Access /

Obstetric fistulas were common in the United States generations ago. L. Lewis Wall, an obstetrics surgeon and president of the Worldwide Fistula Fund (WFF), told Christianity Today that due to modern health care, fistula has been "lost from the collective memory." (See "Jesus and the Unclean Woman.")

A fistula develops when bladder or rectal tissue is damaged during obstructed labor. In most instances, the mother is unable to deliver her baby because her pelvis has not fully grown. Typically her child dies, and unless surgery is performed, the woman remains incontinent for the rest of her life. Medical experts estimate that more than 90 percent of the 2-3 million women who need the surgery live in the developing world.

WFF is the first American organization focused solely on fistula. Wall and WFF vice president Steve Arrowsmith have performed thousands of fistula repairs since the 1980s. Arrowsmith has a sense of humor about his expertise. "I used to tell everybody I was one of the top five fistula surgeons in the world. There were only four of us, but I was definitely right up there in the top five."

Australian physician Catherine Hamlin and her late husband, Reginald, were the modern pioneers of fistula surgery. In 1974, the Christian couple founded Ethiopia's Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, which has provided free surgery to more than 34,000 women. (Hamlin, who turns 86 this month, still performs surgeries.)

Fistula surgeries are also regularly performed aboard Mercy Ships' Africa Mercy, a nonprofit floating hospital where Arrowsmith serves as surgery coordinator.

Launching a Campaign

Intensive media attention has brought the need for fistula surgery to a worldwide audience. Both the BBC and Oprah have aired programs on the topic. ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only Spiritual Lives All Their Own
What if children have their own experiences of God—and a genuine free will to respond?
RecommendedPregnant and on Mission in Zika Territory: Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Subscriber Access Only
Pregnant and on Mission in Zika Territory: Should I Stay or Should I Go?
The outbreak hit Honduras during the third trimester of my long-awaited pregnancy.
TrendingCover Story: Inside the Popular, Controversial Bethel Church
Cover Story: Inside the Popular, Controversial Bethel Church
Some visitors claim to be healed. Others claim to receive direct words from God. Is it 'real'--or dangerous?
Editor's PickWhen It Comes to the Next President, We Need More Than Strength
When It Comes to the Next President, We Need More Than Strength
From Trump to Clinton, would-be leaders promise authority without vulnerability.
Christianity Today
Hope for the 'Most Voiceless' on the Planet
hide thisJanuary January

In the Magazine

January 2010

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.