For over 15 years Glenys Sigley has been a patron of CBM Australia

Stories | October 1, 2019

For over 15 years Glenys has been a patron of CBM Australia, and has travelled to various countries meeting people living in poverty with a disability to see the work CBM does to help them. Glenys has had a long and exciting career, appearing in some of Australia’s most loved television shows like The Flying Doctors and Prisoner.

“I’ve got a heart for people with disabilities. Especially in developing nations” says Glenys.

She’s travelled a lot and understands the fundamental thing about people — we’re all essentially the same. We’re simply born in different countries.

Despite her many travels helping people in some of the poorest countries, her trip to East Africa was the most emotional yet. “I met courageous women recovering from fistula”, says Glenys.

Fistula occurs when an unborn baby’s head puts too much pressure on a mother’s maternal tissues, cutting off the blood supply. The tissue dies and leaves a hole, or fistula, which causes urine and sometimes faeces to leak uncontrollably. One of the main causes of fistula is extreme poverty. In the poorest places, malnutrition can affect the growth of the skeleton, including the pelvis. This can lead to birthing difficulties, and a fistula can occur. Living in poverty also means many women can’t afford adequate health care or have no access to it.

On her trip, Glenys met Pillay, a women who recently had successful treatment for fistula.

Glenys was delighted when she was told that Pillay had been pregnant with twins as Glenys had given birth to twins previously. She was looking forward to sharing stories of their families. However, when Glenys met Pillay, their stories had very different endings.

When Glenys was pregnant with twins she had some trouble before the birth, and was able to spend time in hospital getting expert care. Pillay had trouble giving birth, but the local birthing centre couldn’t help her. She had to go to the big hospital in the city.

In Australia we wouldn’t hesitate to call an ambulance. But for people living in rural areas of Africa that’s not an option. There are no ambulances. The only option Pillay had was the five hour train journey into the city. Pillay’s twin babies became stuck in her birth canal during labour, she was experiencing incredible pain as a fistula formed and was barely conscious by the time she arrived at the hospital.

She was lucky to survive. Sadly, her babies weren’t so lucky. They didn’t make it.

“If I’d been born in a poor country, her story could’ve been my story. I came out of the hospital with two beautiful babies. She came out with nothing” says Glenys.

Pillay left hospital with a fistula that leaked uncontrollably. She was ostracised by her community and her husband. She sat in a small room all day too embarrassed to leave. “She had no babies, no husband, no friends, no dignity.”

Pillay lived like that for 14 years before a relative told her about the new work happening in the big hospital where she finally had fistula surgery.

Pillay’s story was heartbreaking, but after 14 years of isolation and sadness she was smiling and looking forward to a new beginning.

“It still makes me sad when I think people have to live like that.” Said Glenys.

That’s why CBM Australia and our partners work to educate and empower women. There is hope for them to access better healthcare including fistula surgery.

The compassion and support of generous CBM supporters has already helped thousands of women in impoverished countries receive the vital maternal healthcare they need. This success has pushed us forward to develop a program to educate and empower women in Nigeria about fistula.

Your donation will not only change a woman’s life but can save the life of a mother and her baby. A mother like Pillay.

Please donate today:


Back to Stories

Your donation could save lives

Related Stories

A Light of Hope

Content Warning: The story in this letter refers to suicide, which may be distressing for some readers. If you or someone you know is in need of support, please...

Small Business, Big Impact: supporting mental health in Indonesia

Work is a big part of our lives. Not...

A Resilient Woman

Margie, a mother of seven, is a daycare worker in a small coastal village in the Philippines. A few years ago, Margie was diagnosed with a mental health condition after...