/ Modified jan 8, 2014 9:26 a.m.

Tucson Surgeon Helping African Women with Post Birth Injuries

Fistulas are holes in the bladder that result from long deliveries, lack of medical attention; oftentimes smell causes these women to be ostracized.


Dr. Bill Meyer spends his summers seeing the world. His globetrotting, however, has a purpose: helping women recover from traumatic deliveries and get their lives back.

In many parts of the world, women do not have easy access to a hospital or clinic, and must deliver children at home. For some women, those can take up to a few days.

Such lengthy deliveries are both traumatic and potentially life-threatening for the mother.

For women who do survive the birthing, on-going pressure from the baby's head can cause holes to form in the bladder, which are known as fistulas.

Fistulas result in a constant leaking of urine, the smell of which can lead to ostracization.

"They are very reserved when they show up because they are used to being shunned," Meyer explained about the women who come to him for fistula repair surgeries.

Meyer donates his time performing these surgeries around the world, and most of his work is volunteer-based.

Nearly a decade ago, it was in Africa where he first learned from African doctors how to conduct the procedure.

These doctors, Meyers said, "are my heroes." Some of them have performed tens-of-thousands of these procedures. Unfortunately, there are not enough of them to serve the entire population of such a large continent.

It is estimated that one out of every 1,000 births results in a fistula.

In places like the United States, fistulas are uncommon. That is because women who do not deliver within a day or two usually undergo a cesarean section. But, in places like Africa, the nearest hospital or clinic may be hours, if not days away, and based upon sheer population numbers, an estimated 1 million African women have fistulas.

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