She Is Legend

A few days ago, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, I met a wonderful woman, Catherine.

Tall, silver haired, sparkling eyes. An ever-present wry smile on her face. Very chatty and utterly charming.

Catherine has been a doctor and surgeon for near most of her 86 years (she turns 87 next week.)

Born in Australia, she and her husband Reg (also a doctor) came to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, about 51 years ago to practice medicine, more specifically, obstetrics and gynecology.

They never left.

It’s been estimated that Catherine and Reg, who passed in 1993, performed over 34,000 fistula-related surgeries on women that are often outcast and forgotten by their villages and society. Obstetric fistulas is not a pretty condition. .

In Third-World countries, women must deal, for much of their lives, with the incontinence and leaking that is a result of the fistula, ashamed and an outcast.

Eventually, if they are lucky, they make their way to Addis Ababa and Catherine.

Where she fixes them. And gives them their lives back.

Nicholas Kristoff, of the New York Times, has written about Catherine and her work a few times, calling her a modern-day Mother Theresa. In 2004 and 2005, Oprah had her on her show, and then visited the hospital, donating money for a new ward.

The picture above is just a quick snap I took with my Canon G9, getting low while our photographer on this trip, Vicki Pearson, was hard at work making the real portraits. We were in her garden, one of her favorite places, she told us. Like the fact I got her pup in the photo too.

Catherine may be one of the most incredible, selfless people I’ve ever met in my life. To say it was an honor to meet her is an understatement. I’m happy I got a chance to meet Catherine, and to speak with her for a bit. The proper Aussie that she is, she invited us down to her bungalow (on the campus of the hospital) where we sat on her comfy couch and love seat and chatted with her for nearly an hour. She had coffee and tea for us, and offered us coconut cookies that she baked.

And then gave us the recipe.

How great a day is that? I get to meet a legend, hear about her work, photograph her, AND get her cookie recipe.

As we departed, I wished her a happy 87th birthday. I hope she has many, many more.

Some links, in case you want to find out more about this wonderful gal:

* Nicholas Kristoff piece on Catherine Hamlin.

* On the Oprah Winfrey Show, 2005.

© Mark V. Krajnak 2011 | JerseyStyle Photography | All rights Reserved
Unless otherwise noted, images captured with a Canon 50D, SanDisk digital film, finished with PS2 or PSE6 and Nik Software.


6 thoughts on “She Is Legend

  1. Fantastic post Mark. I am so envious of you right now getting to meet folks like Catherine. Good to see that there are folks like that in the world and that companies like yours are supporting them in what they do.

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