I shouldn't be alive: My battle with multiple slipped discs

Sicily Wangari has battled with multiple slipped discs Photo:Nash/AfrikaStudios

When Sharon, my second child was born through C-section, my husband had to travel overseas after two weeks.

My house manager at that time left suddenly. I am a perfectionist, so I got up, and kept my house in perfect order. I didn’t feel it then, but this marked the beginning of my journey. I had back pains that would come and go. I also felt tired all the time and numb sometimes. But I thought it had something to do with women’s issues, having had surgery thrice, once to extract fibroids, and twice to have my daughters. I did not take it seriously, even when they referred me to Dr. Gakuo Njenga, an orthopedic specialist.

As a financial advisor at PanAfrican Life I am a busy woman.  My job involves visiting clients and giving insurance advice. I used to have ten meetings a day and make it through. But one morning, I struggled out of bed trying to ignore the pain. I went to the bathroom but when I bent over to pick up the soap, it was too painful to try. I screamed without meaning to, and my husband heard but I made as if I was okay.

My morning meetings were too important to me. I struggled through dressing up and even drove to pick up my colleague near City Cabanas for a meeting on Mombasa Road. But I could not pretend anymore, I was weak and in pain so I left, allowing my colleague to go on with the meeting. I knew I had to go to hospital but I had to meet my friend Muthoni first. She had been recently widowed and needed ad- vice on how to follow up with her husband’s insurance issues. I noticed my legs numbing as I drove.

My lower back was aflame. I parked at a petrol station near Bellevue and sat waiting for this wave of discomfort to subside. After a while, I decided to set out again.  At the City Council parking oppo- site Barclays Plaza in the CBD, my distress drew the attention of an elderly man and he helped me out of the car, and out of the parking area. I was glad I had not worn my usual high heels. Somehow, I managed to meet Muthoni at my office and made it through a long lunch hour.

But as soon as the meeting was over, I was rushed to Menelik Hospital on Ngong Road by my colleagues. I was admitted on arrival. By this time my vision was blurred and I slipped into unconsciousness. My colleague contacted my husband and waited until he arrived. I was admitted for 14 days. I was put through a battery of tests.

The doctors said I had multiple slipped discs. They stretched me out on the bed, with things that looked like stones, which pulled my legs. I was told that the idea was to stretch out my vertebrae so that the flesh that was lodged between my discs would be released. It was extremely uncomfortable. I did not leave my bed, even to go to the bathroom for seven days. I decided to make positive declarations over my life. I prayed. I reminded God, like King Hezekiah in the Bible, of my life, how I had served Him and helped those who needed my help.

And I began to feel better. When I was finally discharged, I still had to go for follow-up visits for about a week, and when my outpatient insurance was exhausted, I had to pay cash - about Sh2,000 per session. The sessions involved massage and continuous traction (mechanism for relieving pressure on the spine and skeletal system), in addition to buying medication. I was soon able to go back to work.

Sometimes, my husband would send a driver to pick me up and drop me home, but there were days I had to take a matatu. I can no longer wear high-heeled shoes for more than a few minutes, or go to work and hold down the fort as I used to. But my employer and clients have been supportive. I cannot hold or play with my young children because I’ve been advised not to carry anything heavier than two kilos. I am so grateful to God and my family and friends. I have made it this far because of their love and support.