Timbualel was only fourteen when she was abducted from her family and formally married to her husband, a practice that was common in the 1970s and 80s.

At sixteen, Timbualel became pregnant for the first time. There was no health center in her village, so she had no access to medical care throughout her pregnancy. Timbualel gave birth at home after four days in labor. Sadly her child was stillborn.

While Timbualel recovered from the delivery and grieved the loss of her baby, it became clear that she was unable to pass urine, which caused her severe pain. She was brought to the nearest hospital where physicians recommended surgery, but her husband and mother-in-law denied treatment and began the journey back to their village. As they traveled home, Timbualel’s bladder ruptured. She was left with urinary incontinence and was unable to stand due to the pain.

Ashamed of the smell and constant wetness, Timbualel lived in isolation from her community for a year. At last her family made the two-day journey on foot to the nearest hospital where she was referred to the Addis Ababa Hospital.

Timbualel recalls meeting Dr. Catherine Hamlin and Dr. Reginald Hamlin affectionately referred to as “Emmayye” and “Abbaye” – Amharic for mother and father – who operated on her. In her time at Hamlin, Timbualel received three surgeries and now uses a device to ensure continence. She continues to visit the Yirgalem Center regularly for check-ups. With her second husband, Timbualel later had a healthy baby boy and is now a grandmother of two.

“I met Dr. Catherine years later when I returned. I was so surprised and touched that she remembered me after so many years. My fistula cost me everything I had, but thanks to this hospital, I rebuilt my life. Thank you.”