Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Hospital By the River

Have you:

Read this book?

Seen the Oprah episode?

Ever heard of an obstetric fistula?

If not, you NEED to.

This book is troubling, heart-wrenching, inspiring and important.

It tells the story of Reg and Catherine Hamlin, Austrailian obstetricians who have spent their lives in Ethiopia treating fistula patients. Catherine authored the book. She rocks.

Ever since I started Hospital By the River last week, I've been really, well, bothered by the whole thing. What we take for granted in Western society, and what childbirth is like for impoverished women in third-world countries with no access to medical care. It's awful. Really, really awful.

Not sure what else to say, just that the book is really impactful and makes me want to go back to Ethiopia. Some of it is hard to read--it's pretty descriptive--but I think I NEED to read it. I have no frame of reference for the horrors of week-long obstructed labors and the painful, humiliating injuries that result. And then being shunned by your husband. Banished from your village. Left to die. All because your body is a little bit broken.

As a woman, I am so, so glad for this book. It's been really eye-opening and if these stories aren't told, most of us won't know what it means to give birth in a developing nation, or how fortunate we are to have excellent doctors and medical facilities at our fingertips. And then we also need to spend more time peering into the lives of people like the Hamlins. Sadly our society focuses almost exclusively on pop culture when we COULD be reading about people who have literally given their lives away for the sake of others. People who make US want to give OUR lives away. (Doubtful you'd find Catherine Hamlin on the cover of "Us" or "People.")
So give it a read. I think you'll be glad, and bothered, that you did.


Jeannett Gibson said...

Sounds to see if any local library has it...sigh...

sarah said...


I read this book prior to traveling to Ethiopia last summer. We were able to go for on very thorough tour at the Fistula Hospital - it was heart wrenching but they are doing an absolutely amazing job with the women - healing for body, soul and heart. You must return to Ethiopia someday to visit. Dr Hamlin STILL is doing surgeries!

Shonni said...

Brianna, I read this book a few months ago and felt the same way you do...just almost at a loss for words.
I felt so inspired by the love and compassion of the Hamlin's for these women.
I am glad I read it!!! and will never forget it. I want to live that kind of life...where ever God puts me!!

Shana said...

I saw the Oprah episode in October of 2005. That was the day we decided to adopt from Ethiopia.

Until that point we weren't sure if we wanted to do international or domestic adoption, but I fell in love with the people of Ethiopia that day and never looked back!

Amy Jo said...

Just bought the book from our adoption agency...I'm really looking forward to reading it. Have you seen "A Walk To Beautiful"? So hard, so devastating, but so inspiring. Thanks for sharing. :-)

Mary said...

Read this a couple of years ago. Never heard of the Oprah episode though?
I wish I had thought about visiting when we were in Ethiopia this past Christmas :-(
The story was compelling and moving and troubling.
Thanks for reminding me!

joy said...

I saw that episode of Oprah and it was heart wrenching and eye opening. I am amazed at how generous people can be and courageous and convicted to make a difference. It's encouraging and inspiring. Glad you brought the book to our attention though; I didn't know there was a book.

C said...

Hey there! I found your blog on a blogroll and love it! I'm de-lurking to comment on this post in case your thoughtful words inspire anyone going to Ethiopia soon to help out. I have a bunch of medical supplies for the fistula hospital that I need to get there. Ironically, I had to cancel my trip to take them myself because of having a baby! Any adoptive families that want to help deliver the supplies can contact me - cera311 at hotmail dot com. Thanks! And thanks for the great blogging!


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