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Desert ride to help Ethiopian mums

A palliative care nurse from Perth's Bethesda Hospital is about to attempt the challenge of a lifetime, riding the 4097 km from Sydney to Perth to raise money for the Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia foundation. By AMIE LARTER

In what already seems like an epic test, Bruno Cordier will ride alone without any support vehicle- the only company being his bicycle "Jimmy".

Saying goodbye to Sydney on the January 11, Bruno will ride to Mildura through to Port Augusta and then Adelaide, before entering the Nullarbor Plain- a 1100km stretch of flat barren terrain notorious for its extreme heat and weather conditions.

Inspired by a recent trip to Ethiopia where he visited one of Dr Catherine Hamlin's six hospitals,

Cordier and his partner Gracie Vivian, a doctor at a children's hospital, decided to assist Hamlin by raising $20,000 to fund ongoing surgery and rehabilitation, as well train midwives in attempt to avoid this devastating rate of obstetric fistula - a completely preventable condition.

According to NationMaster.com, Ethiopian women have a much higher fertility rate at 5.32 births per woman, whereas Australian women average 1.77 births.

Given that Ethiopia has a population of about 90 million, and only about 130 obstetricians or gynaecologists - there is a large number of women giving birth at home alone without any medical assistance.

Figures like this have spurred on Cordier's commitment. "Dr Hamlin's work is profoundly life changing," he said. "It tackles the problem of fistula from all angles.

"We read Catherine's Gift by John Little on a trip to Ethiopia in March, and decided to visit one of her rural hospitals. The obstetrician and gynaecologist in charge, Dr Betewe, gave us a tour, explained his incredible motivations for doing this work and introduced us to staff and patients. We decided then and there to do this fundraiser."

With a training regime that includes long-distance cycling, up to 150 km a day, running and weights for physical training and meditation to prepare for the solitude and mental discipline needed for such an undertaking, Cordier seems prepared for the five-week test that lies ahead.

This doesn't stop his partner Vivian from worrying though.

"I'm so worried. As more people find out, more people tell Bruno how crazy he is and that makes me more concerned. But we'll ensure he has an emergency beacon for potential times of trouble," she said, "I'm incredibly proud."

Lucy Perry, chief executive of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia (Australia), said Cordier has been a source of inspiration for many, including herself.

"Bruno actually doesn't know this but he has inspired me to run a race in Ethiopia," she said. "I thought, I just can't sit at my keyboard in my office in Sydney while these other people slap it across the Nullarbor for our hospital. So I am running a race in Ethiopia this time next year - I have given myself plenty of time to train."

Patients of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia (Australia) will benefit from Cordier's fundraising adventure, with part of the funds going towards the running costs of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and its regional centres. Funds also go to the Hamlin College of Midwives that provides training to Ethiopian nurses.

"I am just so thrilled that people are willing to put themselves through this stuff to raise money for our patients," Perry said. "Catherine can't quite believe it - she always can't believe that people are willing to do these amazing things for the hospital."

About 28,700 women in Africa will die from pregnancy and birth-related conditions in the estimated 34 days Cordier will take to complete this ride.

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