At sixteen, Akissi was so excited as she went into labour with her first child. Excitement led to devastation as she struggled for several days and eventually her baby died. Akissi discovered that she now had loss of bladder control and the prospect of not being able to have more children. Her condition is called obstetric fistula and is caused by damage resulting from obstructed labour. OBF is common in countries where there is little or no obstetric care. Akissi’s husband had now abandoned her.

In her village, Akissi did her best to cover up her condition but people noticed the foul smell coming from her. Humiliation added to her heartbreak. Akissi struggled to endure everyday life. Her vivacious personality dulled, and her head remained bowed in shame.

Then Akissi heard on the radio that doctors from Mercy Ships planned to visit a clinic near her village to see women with a leaking problem like hers. She attended the patient screening and received a date to make the journey to the hospital ship in Lomé, Togo. Excitement and hope filled her young heart. Mercy Ships arranged transportation for the women from Togo’s northern areas to get to the harbour in Lomé. OBF surgeon Dr. Steve Arrowsmith performed surgery on Akissi. When the nurses removed the catheter a few days later, Akissi no longer leaked. For the first time in 18 months, she was dry.

A few days later Akissi took part in a Mercy Ships ceremony honouring the women who had received surgeries. The sounds of drums, clapping and singing echoed through the ward as the women filed into the room in traditional African dress. Akissi wore a new cobalt blue gown with touches of golden yellow. Joy lit her face.

Akissi will return to her village and can look forward to a life free from shame and filled with joy and the prospect of being able to have children in the future.