Chapter 7Heidi Breeze-Harris, a Sick Pregnant Lady with an IdeaWhat Is Your Can't Not Do?

All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous people, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.

—T.S. Eliot

Fistula leaves a hole in a mother's bladder or rectum, which causes leakage of urine or feces. It affects more than 2 million women and girls in the developing world. Fistulas develop when a woman's childbirth is obstructed during labor and she doesn't have access to medical care. These mothers are not only irreparably physically damaged for life but are frequently pushed to the edges of African society, socially ostracized, unable to board a bus, share a meal, or even pray communally. It's so sickening in so many ways.

I met Heidi Breeze-Harris about 12 years ago. It was another rainy Seattle night. We were both at a lecture to hear Kathy Calvin of the United Nations Foundation. Kathy was in town to talk about the foundation's work to eradicate fistula. When I sat down with Heidi for coffee earlier this year to talk about her work, she told me, “When I first heard about fistula, I thought it was something that should be gone; it's a terrible injustice that must go away.” On that evening 12 years ago, Heidi, who was one month pregnant, said to Kathy afterward, “I'm just a sick pregnant lady with an idea…” and they exchanged ...

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