Today, Rosa* finds fulfilment in her humanitarian work. She works at a refugee camp in Kenya and is passionate about her faith.
“It’s the one thing that has made me come this far,” she told The Weight She Carries.
One of the most rewarding parts of her work is helping women get to a place where they can provide for their children. Rosa also works with children and knows first-hand the importance of having an advocate as a child.
Her childhood was a complicated one. Raised in a polygamous family, Rosa’s father worked in the city while her biological mother lived in the village. Rosa lived in the city with her father and stepmother because she had an eye problem that required frequent treatment at a hospital.
“My stepmom used to mistreat me, but my father will always be the best figure in my life. He always believed in me and encouraged me to pursue my dreams. And I am who I am because of him, although he is late,” she said.
Rosa’s life changed for the better when her biological mother came into the picture when she was about 10 years old. Life was good for many years. She received a good education and established a family of her own. But one day, a chain of events unfolded in a single day that left her deeply wounded. She lost her baby, her uterus, ended up with a ruptured bladder and nearly lost her life. This is her story in her own words…
“I started developing spotting in November of 2018. I had gone for holiday with my daughter in Mombasa, so I rushed immediately to a facility nearby and an ultrasound was immediately requested.
The radiologist reported that I had placenta previa, which is a low-lying placenta. It was near the cervix. I also had placenta accreta, which is a placenta that has been firmly attached to the tissues; that is why the procedure became so dangerous for me. It is quite rare.
I was told that all would be well, but I just needed to minimize the amount of work I was doing, which wasn’t much to begin with. And he said in the case of delivery, the only option would be a C-section. Since I worked in the medical field already, it was quite easy for me to comprehend.
I came back to Nairobi to attend a training.
On the 25th of November, I had gone to church and in the evening, I was alone in my house. My family had travelled to the countryside. I felt a sudden gush of warm fluid running down my thighs. I rushed to the bathroom and saw that there was a copious amount of blood.
Being alone in the house, I urgently called for a taxi. [The driver] came very quickly and I was rushed to a private hospital in Nairobi. I was rushed to the casualty area where I was handled as an emergency and taken for an urgent ultrasound, which showed that the pregnancy was at 20 weeks and that my placenta was still low-lying and there was no fetal heart rate. I felt crushed.
I was immediately rushed to the ward, and this is the part where I was mismanaged. It dawned on me later on after the procedures had been done. At that time, I was in so much pain, and I couldn’t comprehend what was going on. The nurse in the ward administered misoprostol and syntocinon – drugs that should not have been administered to someone with a previous scar.
I remember that I bled. My sheets were filled with blood. The consultant gynecologist came the following day to review me and when he was examining my abdomen, he realized that I had a scar. I saw the reaction on his face and knew something was not right.
“They never told me you have a scar!” he shouted.
I told him that I had informed the doctor in the casualty and also the nurse in the ward. He went to the nursing station and shouted, “Prepare that lady for theater!”
I was taken to the theater around 4 p.m. and that was the worst moment of my life. I woke up 13 hours later in the ICU. I was transfused [with] seven pints, and I was told I had a low GCS score. A Glasgow Coma Scale – a scale that is used to assess the level of consciousness. Mine was 4/15, the normal one is 15 /15 and a dead person is usually at 3/15. That means that I was close to death. But what I thank God for is that He gave me a second chance.
I had severe hemorrhage. All of my veins that they needed for intravenous fluids had all collapsed. So, they had to insert it through the vein that goes directly to the heart. It was that time the doctor told me that he had to do a hysterectomy to remove my entire uterus and also said I had too much bleeding and my bladder was punctured.
I remember in the ICU when the doctor and the gynecologist broke the news to me in the morning. I was shattered. I’ve never cried in my life like that. I felt like the world had collapsed on me. I felt like I was less than a woman and started thinking, “Now, what is a woman without a womb?” It’s something that defines a woman.
I was later discharged and everyone was saying that I was a testimony because I almost lost my life and they had to call a code blue, which is a team that is called to resuscitate someone.
When I was [out of the ward], I was grateful to God for giving me a second chance to take care of my daughter. That was the only thing that got me through – being grateful for being alive. That is something that we should never take for granted.
At the same time, a colleague of mine passed on due to pregnancy. And that’s when I knew that God chose me. He gave me a second chance even though I’m not special in any way.
Today my bladder still has spasms, which are very painful. I have check-ups done by the gynecologist and I have to have pain medication with me because my bladder is usually quite painful. But still, when I look back and see that I am alive, that is all that gives me hope.
In all things, I give God thanks because it’s by His grace and mercies that I am alive today. I have lived to tell somebody who has gone through a similar situation to never give up on life. Life is beautiful, life is sweet, and there’s no one who can heal your pain except Jesus. He’s the one who took me all the way through all of this.
No matter how many friends and family we have, at some point, you may feel like you’re drowning in tears, but it’s only the Bible that can push you through and give you words of encouragement. I will share the verses that pushed me through.
Psalm 118:1 – “Oh give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his love endureth forever.”
Job 11:13-19 – “Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then, free of fault, you will lift up your face; you will stand firm and without fear. You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by. Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning. You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety. You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid, and many will court your favor.”
Currently I’m able to be who I am today because of Jesus. No matter how many counselling sessions you can go through, it’s only Jesus Christ alone who is the source of healing.
I wish to encourage women who have undergone hysterectomy that it’s not the end of life. I hope to one day open up a Hope Center to encourage women who have undergone hysterectomies and pregnancy loss. The journey is not easy.
At times you feel less than a woman for not experiencing your menstrual cycle. It’s very devastating; at times you see the section where pads are sold, and I usually avoid those sections when I visit stores because it reminds me of the pain that I’ve gone through. So, at times I have to avoid such sections.
Today I am enrolled in a bachelor’s program in psychology. I’m thinking of challenging and switching my career to assist women because, through this, I believe I found my calling. My father always believed that one day I would talk to people and I never knew this would be the day. I believe my story will one day help someone.
My advice also is to have genuine friends. Have one or two people you can be vulnerable with. Have them so they can help you walk through. When I was discharged, my friend took me in because she is a nurse. She took me in with my daughter to support me in my journey because my family was so terrified. I’m so grateful to her.
My daughter would always pray for me and ensure that I took my medicine. So, these children in our lives are very special. They are special gifts from God. I’m also grateful to my partner who is very supportive. Without such people you can wallow into depression. And I’m here today because of them.
It’s not an easy journey, and you cannot say there’s a timeframe for healing. It’s a process. It can be two years, it could be months, it can be a decade, but the journey is quite a challenge and I’m still on it.
Vimbai E. is a writer, journalist, ghostwriter and the founder of The Weight She Carries. With hundreds of articles publishing online, in print and for broadcast, her love of language and storytelling shines through every piece of writing that bears her name.