Fatmata Conte, 33
Princess Christian Maternity Hospital, Freetown

My name is Fatmata Conte. I started visiting the clinic when I found out I was pregnant – at about three months pregnant. This was my third pregnancy.

My husband is 58 years old. My parents committed me to marrying him when I was only 15 years old. I didn’t want to marry him, but I was given no choice. The marriage was no good at all – I was very unhappy. He treated me badly and I finally couldn’t stand it anymore so I left, I abandoned him. I then eventually met another man, who I lived with. He is the father of my two children – Masa, 12 and Junior, 10. My husband however wouldn’t accept my having left him. He kept insisting that I had to come back to him – and eventually I felt I had to agree to it. So, I returned to him. This pregnancy, this baby, was his.

At first the pregnancy proceeded normally. I went to the clinic regularly – where they “sounded-me” and felt my belly to assess my pregnancy. Late in the pregnancy, when the baby was ready to come, the clinic sent me here, to the hospital, as they said the baby was too big for me, that it had no space to move and that I couldn’t deliver without a caesarean section. Dr Thorlie said the operation would cost 1 million leone – and that I would have to pay before he could operate. I went home and told my husband. He didn’t have that much money, so I went to the Saola Clinic, a hospital run by the United Methodist Mission. They admitted me – but they don’t do operations – and although I needed one, there was just no way at all that we could find the 1 million leones that Dr Thorlie said we needed.

On 9 July, I went into labour but I just couldn’t deliver the baby. It just wouldn’t come: as Dr Thorlie had said, the baby was just too big to be delivered without a c-section. Things got very bad. I was very weak and bleeding. The nurse told me that my baby had died in the course of the prolonged labour and apparently my uterus had ruptured. I was haemorrhaging when they brought me back to the hospital. I very nearly died.

Dr Thorlie saved my life. He charged me 500,000 leones to fix my uterus – and stayed late into the night sewing my uterus back together. My husband’s attitude was terrible – he made no efforts to help – he had made no attempt to find the 1 million leone which would have saved our baby, and now he only just made an effort to find the 500,000 to save my life. Even the father of my children helped me – and it was not even his baby – but when I leave here, I will go to be with my sister. I would like to go back to the father of my children – who is looking after our children now, but I am not sure if he will have me. I am grateful to Dr Thorlie for saving me.