BY KINGSLEY OBOM-EGBULEM
There is definitely more to the vagina than meets the ordinary eye. Beyond what elementary Biology tells us, an understanding of physiology and human anatomy would suggest that the vigina is arguably one of the most complex and sophisticated systems in the body. Imagine then what could happen to a woman if something terrible happens to this very critical part of womanhood.
Hell! Real hell!
That was where Edem Okon lived until November 19, 2018.
At 42, Edem is still a virgin. Nothing to cheer about this development given that it wasn’t really her choice.
If she had a choice, Edem would have long been married and probably had all her children by now. But no man would want to have a relationship with her, on a good day. Hence virginity for Edem became a burden she had to bear, due to complications she developed after she was circumcised as a child by no other person than her mother.
“Who wants to marry a woman without a vagina? Who would marry you if they know you don’t mensurate and all you have down there is just a little tiny hole for urinating? Tell me…is it not better to stay away from men than get married and get kicked out after your wedding day?” Edem lamented, with tears streaming down her pale scraggy cheeks revealing an already gloomy countenance.
Edem wasn’t really circumcised-hers was a classic case of Female Genital Mutilation. She had her vagina mutilated. Given the age this horrendous act was carried out, she probably had almost everything removed.
“From the clitoris to the labia minora even a large part of her labia majora were completely expunged” said Benjamin Olowojebutu, the surgeon and maternal health specialist who tried to surgically repair Edem’s vagina during his organisation’s medical missions to Uyo recently.
After Edem’s mutilation 42 years ago, the healing of the cut was also poorly managed and then she had infections and developed vaginal stenosis – which is the narrowing and loss of flexibility of the vagina, accompanied by dryness and loss of resilience of the scared tissue. “But in her own case, the mutilation also narrowed the vaginal opening aside the scar to the point where even the pinky finger may not conveniently get in” said Dr. Olowojebutu.
The most common effect of stenosis according to medical facts from Soul Source are “the drying and thinning of the vaginal lining, fibrosis (formation of scar tissue), shortening and narrowing of the vagina, reduction of vaginal lubrication, and diminishment of the size and number of small blood vessels within the vagina.”
These abnormalities could occur even in uncircumcised women especially those undergoing radiotherapy around the vaginal area. But Olowojebutu believe Edem’s case must have been due to the way she was circumcised.
“I must say, it was terribly done and even If she lived till the age of 60, she would have remained a virgin no matter how much she craved a relationship with the opposite sex. No one would have been able to have sex with her” he lamented.
But Edem’s travails weren’t just about her lack of a vaginal opening, she also had never mensurated. Because of her “blocked vagina”, blood could not go out of her body during mensuration thus causing urinary tract infection, severe pain and chronic loss of libido. And she had multiple fibroids to deal with too.
It was actually the fibroid that brought her in contact with the Benjamin Olowojebutu Foundation (BOF) during one of their medical missions to Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
BOF carries out free fibroid surgeries targeting poor women who can’t afford the cost of fibroid surgery. This year alone, they have done close to 200 free fibroid surgeries with one more outreach to go in the year.
The likes of Edem, who sells vegetables and makes less than $2 a day would have to save for close to a decade before she can pay for the cost of Fibroid operation which goes for as high as $800 to $1000 in Nigeria. Add to this the cost of vaginal reconstructive surgery.
All of these she got for free.
Edem’s surgery was not only the last during BOFs Uyo outreach, but also the most complicated.
“The entire surgery–both the myomectomy and vaginal reconstruction lasted for 6 hours 30 mins,” said Olowojebutu.
“We had gone in hoping that we’ll just take out the fibroid, since that’s our expertise but when we realised that the woman had ‘no vagina’ we were all taken aback but from experience I understood Stenosis as a condition that could occur as one of the consequences of terribly done circumcision and it could also be corrected surgically” he said.
“For the reconstruction, we had to take out the fibrosed scar layer by layer till we got to the closed vagina and then we had to open gradually to give her a vaginal floor that will lead to the cervix, then we gave her a connection from the uterus now to the vagina”.
Edem’s vagina had to be reconstructed before the fibroid operation. And with that, all of her sexual and reproductive functions would be restored and improved based on the theory of use as sexual activity begins.
She could have vaginal stimulation, get lubricated and mensurate normally and even conceive since her problems were mainly ‘structural’ and not hormonal.
With her hospital discharge three days after the surgery, Edem needed about three to four weeks for complete healing before engaging in any sexual activity.
But she may have to wait for a while. Edem has no boyfriend or husband with whom she may want to test or try to live out her new found life. She is however not in a hurry for that now.
“I’m happy”, she says. “I thank God for Dr. Ben…I feel better now, this load (fibroid) is off my body now, I know husband would come” she added, holding back tears that initially conveys her pain and anguish but would henceforth reflect the joy and flesh breath ushered by the restoration of her sexuality and womanhood.
THIS STORY IS CULLED FROM THECABLE