As I lifted the metal bucket to draw water out of the well in my yard, at Okota, Lagos, Nigeria, a sharp pain tore through my lower back. Ouch! I screamed, letting go the bucket, writhing in pains. The pains eased after five minutes but returned four weeks later, very severe. I swallowed pain relieving tablets but the pains refused to go.
I did not have money to see a doctor. I had been out of job for seven straight years. My friends and associates had deserted me. No job, no money, and living in pains.
The pains eased. That was its second coming. I thanked God. But they returned few weeks later. This cycle continued for four months. I became worried, family members became concerned.
Some of them suggested I should see an orthopaedic surgeon. Others said herbal treatment is cheaper, faster and better.
The pains returned again, this time more intense. I could no longer walk without support. Neither could I bend down and pick up an object.
One day, I sneezed. My body reacted violently as if a sledge hammer hit my waist. I screamed and crashed on the floor, groping blindly for help. My wife rushed out to get help.
She came back in ten minutes with a taxi and another victim of lower back pain who offered to take me to his Doctor. They bundled me into the car and we sped off into the Lagos traffic. We crashed into the Doctor’s emergency room shouting for help. The Doctor, a herbal medical practitioner, so I thought initially, diagnosed my problem and said it was spiritual attack. But he can set me free with a spiritual bath using water mixed with herbs. Thereafter, he sent off his assistant to buy the herbal materials he would need to give me the bath, his prescribed therapy for my healing.
The spiritual bath started with the herbalist splashing the herbal water all over my body, making incantations. Suddenly, strange objects that looked like cowries and sea shells began to fall off my body.
“What are these,” I asked in amazement.
“Evil arrows shot at you by people who want you dead,” replied the herbalist. “I can send them back to sender, if you want.”
“Please, don’t. I am a Christian,” I told him in amazement. That was when it dawned on me that I had gone to a spiritualist posing as a herbal doctor. A shrine beside the bathroom confirmed my fears. “How could I, have gotten into this mess in my rush for a solution for my waist pain? As a Christian, I should not be seen in such places. Who would believe my story?” These questions agitated my mind as the bath continued.
I completed the bath and paid the herbalist. But I did not go back. Word soon came from my junior brother that I should come to Enugu, South East, Nigeria, for treatment. I did not have money to travel by air. The 9-hour journey by road was cheaper. But it was a nightmare for me because the pains in my waist made it impossible for me to sit down for that stretch of time.
The trip to Enugu, lying at the back seat of a car, was very agonizing. The pains were unbearable. My brother was shocked when he saw me. I was looking gaunt and distressed. My mother wept uncontrollably and wailed repeatedly, “they have killed my first son.” Calming her down was another challenge. To the hospital. My siblings struggled to bundle me into the waiting car. Getting me into the Doctor’s consulting room was a bigger struggle. After diagnosis, the surgeon said he suspected slip disc, a medical term for dislocation in the lumbar sacral region of the lower back. He recommended an X-ray. He tried to explain, but I was too numbed by pains to understand. I exited the consulting room in a wheel chair.
The X-Ray report confirmed the surgeon’s diagnosis. His therapy was lying on a hospital bed with hard surface, for 21 days, with weights hanging on my legs. That would pull the disc back to its normal position.
But I had wait for a bed to be vacant because they were all occupied by patients. The surgeon gave me some pain killers, asked me to go home. But the pains were unbearable. Three days later, we called the hospital, no vacant bed.
Managing me was becoming more difficult. I developed temper tantrums which sent my mom’s blood pressure up.
“When can I get a bed?” I moaned in pain.
“Have faith in God,” said my junior brother. “You may end up not taking that hospital bed.” I did not believe him.
My junior sister soon heard about a traditional bone healer who could handle my case. We went in search of her to a remote village outside the city. After about two hours of an agonizing search for her herbal home in that village, we were able to locate it with aid of an escort.
“That’s the woman,” our escort pointed. I looked in the direction of her finger and saw a village woman clad in a flowing cloth tied around her breast, chest bare, picking ripe palm fruits from the bunch at her feet.
I walked with difficulty towards her, aided by a walking stick. She saw us coming, her face expressionless.
She ushered us into a narrow room with a wooden bench and a thin-layered 4 x 6 feet mattress on the floor. She looked at me and spoke with authority.
“Remove your shirt.” I did.
“Lie down.” I collapsed on the mattress.
“I was lifting a bucket of water,” I said feebly, and as I was…. She cut me short with a wave of her right hand.
She said a short prayer and ordered me to lie face down on the mattress and stretch to my full length, arms thrust forward. She stepped forward, knelt down, resting her right knee on my neck.
Then she started her native massage on me. She pressed on my back with her full weight as I grit my teeth in pain working her way down my spinal column. Getting to my waist, she did the press-on sideways. Suddenly, she sprang up, a remarkable feat for a woman probably in her late 50s.
She ordered me to squat. Facing me, she pulled my hands forward sharply. Her movements were fast and precise. For some moment, I forgot my pains and admired her agility and skill. Then she sprang to my back. Pressing her right knee against my back and leaning backwards; she jerked back my right and left shoulders in quick bursts. She twisted my head sharply, right and left. Then she stood up and ordered me to bend down and pick up an object. I hesitated. She encouraged me. To my amazement, I did it, the first time in many weeks. All through my painful trauma, I could not bend.
She took one last look at me and said, “That’s all. You are okay now. When you go home; take pain relieving tablets because the pain will linger for sometime.”
“Is that all?” I asked in amazement.
“Yes, that’s all.” “And what is your fee?” I asked.
“Just give me any amount you like.”
As I dressed up, I made a request. “Please can you teach me this skill?”
She smiled, the first time she betrayed any emotions since we met her. “No I can’t,” she replied. “It is a gift from God. I started using it to heal bones since I was 7. That is why I do not charge money. I only take free-will offerings.”
Having seen me recover so quickly, my sister was thrilled beyond description We gave the bone healer all we had, me and my sister, far below what the orthopedic surgeon charged. We thanked her profusely and left.
This woman, in 15 minutes put me through a massage that corrected my slip disc; a drug-free pain management therapy that offered a simple solution for a big problem. Her skill, agility and simplicity humbled us.
As we drove home, I remembered what my brother told me the week before when I was waiting for a vacant hospital bed: “Have faith in God. You may end up not taking that hospital bed.” I did not believe him then. Now as we left that village, I believed him.
Eric Okeke is a storyteller, editor, business writer, motivational speaker and author of the best selling book: I Want a Husband. He is one of Nigeria’s most experienced financial journalists. He has published several articles in local and foreign publications and in websites such as http://www.ezinearticles.com, www.ezinearticles.com and www.writingcareer.com. He is currently running Infomedia Company, a media consulting and information marketing company. Visit his blog at http://sallywantsahusband.blogspot.com