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Clackamas doctor focuses on childbirth complication

Dr. Rahel Nardos, a urogynecologist at Kaiser Permanente in Clackamas, recently returned from a humanitarian trip to train more Ethiopian doctors to prevent and treat the devastating childbirth injury, obstetric fistula.

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Dr. Rahel Nardos (right) celebrates a recovery with a patient at Mekelle Univerity's Ayder Hospital.Nardos, who recently joined the governing board of the Worldwide Fistula Fund, traveled to her native Ethiopia from Jan. 30 through Feb. 15 with a team from Oregon Health & Science University, where she is an assistant professor in research and global health. Their trip involved an intensive schedule of surgery (using Kaiser’s donated medical instruments) and teaching at Mekelle University’s Ayder Referral Hospital and the Mekelle Hamlin Fistula Center, where WFF founder Dr. L. Lewis Wall is working to strengthen a obstetrics-gynecology department and develop collaborations with U.S. universities.

Obstetric fistula is a childbirth injury sustained during prolonged, obstructed labor when a baby cannot fit through a mother’s birth canal. Pressure from obstructed labor destroys tissue normally separating the mother’s vagina from her bladder or rectum, leaving a hole with continuous, uncontrollable leakage of urine or feces.

Nardos recently spoke with the International Museum of Women about the estimated 2 million girls and women in developing nations currently suffer from preventable and treatable obstetric fistulas:

“These women are embarrassed, depressed and, on top of that, stigmatized for something they can’t control. They don’t mix with society because of their odor. Their husbands most likely leave them. Their babies die. Over 95 percent of them have lost their pregnancies because babies don’t survive this kind of ordeal. So you are looking at a woman who is not only physically injured, but also socially and psychologically injured. It is terrible.”

Nardos is a Yale School of Medicine graduate with her obstetrics-gynecology residency completed at Washington University. She spent a year caring for women with obstetric fistula at Hamlin Fistula Hospital following her residency. Footsteps to Healing, a health initiative she founded with her urogynecology colleagues through OHSU Foundation, provides free uterovaginal prolapse surgeries to rural women in Ethiopia.

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