I came to Kenya and all I got was an extra vertebrae…

Don’t anybody panic after reading that subject, nothing is broken that wasn’t already… apparently…

It all started with a crazy notion to run a marathon, specifically the Lewa marathon in June 2010.  I needed to get exercise, but without a clear goal, I could never seem to motivate myself properly.  I had done distance running before in Australia, so I figure, why the heck not, a marathon would be easy, especially with so much time to train.  This was the end of September.

Around two weeks ago I noticed something was wrong however.  Or rather, what was wrong made sure it was noticed.  if i moved in certain ways, I would get sharp pain in my left hip.  Running, walking fast, reaching for my wallet, getting on and off matatus, all of these things soon became off limits.  This wasn’t right, but I also felt that it could just be normal strain.  So i called up my friend who is a runner and asked his opinion, and within five minutes he had already named the cause: running on uneven pavement causes a particular amount of strain on the body and that’s what I was running on.  Bingo.  Simple muscle strain, give it the obligatory week of rest and see where it goes from there.

It never got better, and in fact got worse at some points.  Called up my friend again, and he said to call medical.  I knew what this would mean: trip to Nairobi, intense sessions and frustrations with doctors followed by boring lulls at the hotel, but at least getting to hang out with whichever volunteers were in Nairobi for whatever reason, and there are always some.  I called medical, and within two minutes the decision was made that I would be coming to Nairobi for scans.  I expressed concern about missing time at school, and just my simple dislike of the city (a topic for another post), but my medical officer insisted that there was not a doctor in Mombasa with facilities to handle whichever situation should arrive.  I was off to Nairobi a few days later, giving me enough time to administer my last classes worth of exams.

The next three days (over this past week) included x-rays, visits to the peace corps office and the doctor’s, as well as hanging out in Nairobi with various volunteers coming in and out.  On Friday, I had my final appointment with the doctor where we went over the x-rays together to decide what was wrong and what I would need to do to get better.

Apparently for my entire life I have been a member of 5% (doctor’s statistic, not independently verified yet) of the population that has a lumbarized sacral-1.  In non-medical speak this means that the top part of the lower region of your spine, known as the sacral section or tail bone, does not completely fuse with other parts of the sacral section, and instead becomes more of an extra vertebrae in the lumbar section (lower back) of the spine.

Compound this with my running on uneven pavement and apparently my spine has become aggravated and is aggravating a nerve that coincidentally(?) ends in my hip.  So I don’t actually have a hip pain, I have a back pain.  The doctor also informed me that this would be the reason I would suffer lower back pain during long car drives and the reason I can’t touch my toes! I asked my doctor back home a few times about my lower back pain and he always just chalked it up to a “tight back.” But it’s not a tight back, I am just a mutant, haha!

I now sit in limbo over the weekend as my doctors and peace corps hash out where to go from here.  The only thing to do is Physio-Therapy.  A lumbarized s1 is in no way a major concern (according to my own internet research) but it can sometimes lead to inconveniences like this.  Of course, what are little inconveniences in America very quickly become large inconveniences in Kenya.  Such is life.  Also, have no fear: this will in no way lead to an early termination of my Peace Corps service.  The thought never even crossed my mind, and I am even a pessimist about that sort of thing.  I have a year and a few months to go, and I fully intend on serving them out 🙂

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “I came to Kenya and all I got was an extra vertebrae…

  1. kim

    Good news (even though I know there is pain).

  2. Jesse Osmun

    Nairobi hospitals ( outside of Pangani and maybe Agha Khan) are generally pretty sore up. I heard of the Lewa race, so glad you got to be there despite the injury.

    How is Likoni these days? I visited it once when I was a missionary in Kenya on a short respite trip to Mombasa and thought it was beautiful. You probably take the Ferry over to the docks by Ft. Jesus regularly.