A small team of women are painting Suzanna's face with make-up and crowning her head with brightly colored African fabric. Her two-month-old son, Nicolos, is fast asleep an arm's length away on the bed beside her. Today is Suzanna's day to celebrate. "The sickness" was gone. As the preparations continue, the joy in her smile becomes palpable.
Other women on the Africa Mercy had already celebrated. They danced and sang, wearing beautiful new dresses that symbolized their restored bodies. Suzanna had watched them from her hospital bed, held captive by a catheter.
Six years ago, Suzanna became pregnant with her first child. For nine months, she and her husband had lived in a state of joy as they anticipated the child's arrival. But the joy of a new life was replaced by the sorrow of death's sting. After painfully laboring for days, Suzanna delivered a dead baby.
There was another serious problem. The prolonged pressure from the baby's head during the abnormally long labor left Suzanna with "the sickness" - a vesicovaginal fistula (VVF). VVF leaves women completely incontinent. Approximately 2 million women are living with untreated fistulas. Suzanna had become one of them.
For six years, urine continually poured from her body. Her clothes were always wet, and the foul stench alerted others to her presence. Disgusted and ashamed, her husband left her. Others rejected her as well. Suzanna was alone. She thought her life would always be that way - until she met Nicolos, a man from her village. He knew of her painful story and decided to love her, even with her fistula. They were married, and to Suzanna's delight, she again became pregnant. Two months into the pregnancy, Suzanna went to the hospital for a check up. Upon seeing her fistula, the doctor contacted Mercy Ships. Arrangements were made for her to come to the Africa Mercy after the birth of the baby.
Baby Nicolos was born on July 31 st . In early October, Suzanna, with her husband and son, travelled to the Africa Mercy , where she received a free surgery. Two weeks later, her catheter was removed. She was dry, and it was time to celebrate.
A crowd of onlookers had gathered to rejoice as the women sang and danced. Wearing her beautiful new dress, Suzanna looked like a queen as she testified of God's faithfulness to her. "I am happy, very happy. I never thought the sickness would ever end. But now it is finished."
She closely held baby Nicolos. His little blue hat unintentionally matched the fabric of her new dress. Finally, her sorrow had ended. Her body and spirit were restored. Joy had found her.
Story and Photos by Megan Petock