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Book Review: Healing Lives by Sue Williams

Book Review: Healing Lives by Sue Williams

Book Review: Healing Lives by Sue Williams

1 March 2022

The biography about Australian surgeon Dr Catherine Hamlin was shortlisted for the Australian Christian Book of the Year in 2021.

Reviewed by Doug Davis

In March 2020, the President of Ethiopia proclaimed a day of national mourning for 96-year-old Australian surgeon Dr Catherine Hamlin, who died in the country’s capital Addis Ababa.

Chief among the mourners were son Richard Hamlin and a woman by the name of Mamitu Gashe. In Healing Lives, Sue Williams explains why Mamitu was so closely bonded to Catherine. 

In 1959, Catherine and her husband Reg, also a doctor, joined the staff of a hospital in Addis Ababa. Sixteen-year-old child bride Mamitu sought treatment after prolonged obstructed labour that caused her severe injury and stillbirth.

Mamitu presented with a fistula, when tissues around the birth canal rupture and cause double incontinence. The Hamlins had studied surgical techniques to treat fistulas, which they found was common in Ethiopia.

Mamitu recovered, chose to stay at the hospital to work as Catherine’s unpaid helper, and eventually became a fistula surgeon herself. Together these two lifelong friends treated countless impoverished Ethiopian women.

Healing Lives is a very apt title for this inspiring book, which was shortlisted for the 2021 Australian Christian book of the year.

Healing Lives is available at Koorong.

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