In a personal video on social media, Charmaine Dickson discussed her journey with weight gain starting when her rectovaginal fistula was discovered in her early 30’s. This was a pivotal moment in her life. In naturopathy, we say “never been well since”. This was the case for Charmaine. A discovery which altered her life, health and mental wellbeing.
An injury not openly discussed, rectovaginal fistulas can cause deep physiological and psychological trauma misunderstood by most.
Although it’s been a long journey, Charmaine has now accepted and adjusted her life to the long-term challenges this injury has brought forth. Able to live contently now with the physiological effects, the psychological effects proved harder to overcome, with no support from professionals or friends due to the overwhelming stigma and misunderstanding surrounding the injury. Today, acceptance of herself and her faith in God, has had many healing properties, and now Charmaine wants to assist others with this emotionally traumatic ordeal. She wants others to know she is here, and she understands them.
What is a rectovaginal fistula? A rectovaginal fistula is when there is an abnormal connection between the rectum and the vagina, caused by damage of the thin septum separating the rectal and vaginal wall. It results in gas or stool to pass through the vagina. This may be caused by a difficult, prolonged childbirth without prompt intervention. Or potentially, in Charmaine’s case, a pap smear gone wrong.
Three years after Charmaine’s third child was born, she had a pap smear that was unusually painful both during and after the procedure. It is hypothesised that she was nicked during the procedure, causing an ulcer to form, resulting in a fistula. Unable to sit due to the pain, Charmaine returned to her Doctor out of concern that the pain wasn’t subsiding and she was experiencing flatulence in the vaginal cavity. She was turned away, being told this flatulence was normal. Due to it being ignored, the fistulae became infected and the opening became wider. Aware this was anything but normal, she returned to the Doctor with a tampon containing faecal matter as evidence and was finally heard. Within three hours, Charmaine was in a specialist room and the long triage began. The six month journey from pain and embarrassment to a diagnosis felt like forever. With the Adelaide surgeons unsure how to fix it, Charmaine underwent many painful procedures. After the sixth operation it was decided she needed an ileoscopy bag to give the bowel time to recover. Two more operations followed, now a total of eight, in the hope the bag could be removed. However, these operations too did not work. The bag was attached once more. After the ninth operation, there was finally success, but the bag remained on for another twelve months.
Charmaine’s body was tired and distressed. During one of the many operations, Charmaine’s body became an experiment with the surgeons trying to open up the fistulae more, attaching a rubber band onto the fistulae wall, down the vaginal wall and tying a knot on the outside of the two walls. Expected to then go back to living life as normal, Charmaine experienced immense pain and after ten days of crying in agony, she begged the Doctors to remove it. Although she felt like a guinea pig, Charmaine doesn’t begrudge the doctors. They were trying their best to help a situation of which they had extremely limited knowledge on.
The self-esteem decline was well and truly on its way for Charmaine. The long-term consequences of the sphincter muscle being affected causes distress and embarrassment for the body and the mind, something that was never discussed or understood. One of the most severe outcomes of this was the decline in femininity felt by Charmaine. Intimacy with her husband was non-existent which further exacerbated her embarrassment and self esteem issues. The stigma from a condition like this stays with you, even when repaired.
The emotional, social and physical suffering caused by rectovaginal fistulas is severe and often overlooked. In many parts of the world, women dealing with such a condition are ostracised, rejected by their community and partners. Consequently, their psychological health declines. Eventually, women may heal physically, however, the psychological damage remains. In addition to the discomfort and emotional toll this condition presents, the urine and faecal incontinence creates an environment not conducive to that of nutrition retention, making it near impossible for patients to maintain proper health and continue with social and occupational activities.
In some parts of the world, the stigma about this condition is so extreme that patients are the victims of religious harassment, causing further despair and hopelessness. Moreover, the effort to maintain marital and familial relations is often beyond one’s own capacity.
The overall sense of loss; loss of self-esteem, loss of intimacy, loss of autonomy, loss of health and nutrition can all lead to an overwhelming sense of worthlessness and stress. These consequences manifest themselves into many troubling guises. Some of the most prolific being, social isolation, mental crisis and sleep disturbances.
So where do silk pillowcases fit into all of this?
Silky Kisses Pillowcases, a small business located in Adelaide, South Australia, are a community and compassion driven group of people, focused solely on the betterment of the lives of those in need. Through ethically produced, handmade silk pillowcases in Bali, this team of warriors are aiding the pockets of communities in order to help them heal, grow and educate. Their current charity support is The Fistula Foundation.
The Fistula Foundation believes no woman should endure a life of misery and isolation simply for trying to bring a child into this world. Dedicated to ending the suffering of rectovaginal fistulas, The Fistula Foundation supports fistula treatments in 57 countries across 427 facilities. It funds more fistula repairs than any other organisation in the world, without the assistance of government funding. Since 2009, The Fistula Foundation has funded more than 31,500 surgeries. With a focus on patients, doctors and facilities, the foundation aims to ensure the best care, service and training, in order to further the understanding and knowledge of rectovaginal fistulas.
For every woman who receives treatment, fifty go without. An estimated one million women are suffering with rectovagianl fistula worldwide and The Fistula Foundation needs your help to expand surgical capacity and provide free fistula repair services around the world.
By purchasing a Silky Kisses silk pillowcase, you can help these women in need. All proceeds from the purchase are directed to The Fistula Foundation. You also have the option to make an additional donation to The Fistula Foundation through the Silky Kisses website wherein 100% of your donation will go to the cause, as the Silky Kisses team is run by a group of volunteers, ensuring no administration fees or charges.
Beyond that of charitable work, purchasing silk pillowcases have a range of additional benefits.
Let’s see why.
Silk, a natural protein fibre, works with our bodies and is sympathetic to our body’s needs - in this case, a good night's sleep!
Silk regulates temperature, doesn’t absorb much moisture, contains antimicrobials (the agent that kills bacteria and heals skin), is hypoallergenic and allows hair to move more freely.
Because silk is relatively non absorbent, the natural oils of your hair, as well as the products used on both your hair and skin, are not absorbed or stripped by the pillowcase, instead allowing it to be absorbed fully into where it was intended. Additionally, with the antimicrobials killing bacteria, it creates a more conducive environment to clear, acne-free skin. As most acne is bacterial based, the reduction of bacteria can prove helpful in the removal of acne. Eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis sufferers have also found the smooth, friction-free, bacteria-free fabric has improved their symptoms and calmed the red and itchy rashes, as rough surfaces tend to aggravate the conditions.
This smooth, friction-free effect also benefits hair - a reason many people turn to sleeping on silk. Many women use silk head scarves to protect their hair from damage, frizziness, knots, bunching and to help maintain their styling or product use.
Silk pillowcases have been shown to prevent breakage, split-ends and dryness.
All-in-all, the benefits of sleeping on silk are extensive. Not to mention luxurious and oh so comfortable!
Silky Kisses Pillowcases have over twenty beautiful colours to choose from, handmade ethically, from the highest-quality silk. By purchasing one, you are not only guaranteeing yourself smooth hair and a restful sleep, but you will also be helping a woman who desperately needs access to a medical procedure.
One that Charmaine Dickson knows first hand, will change their life.