Injury in Indonesia

Since we moved here, we’ve been really lucky. None of us have had any serious illness or injury, other than the usual bumps and bruises, colds and flus of a normal life anywhere.

I’ve been particularly thankful of this because the closest “western” medical center is at least an hour away from us, in Jakarta. Sure there are hospitals in our area, but there is no guaranteed standard of care, not to mention that our Indonesian skills are probably not good enough to navigate a true medical emergency. Some of the hospitals around here would be ok if we had no other choice, but we have been told to avoid certain ones because they quite literally have no supplies.

There is also no dependable ambulance service or other emergency transportation. Yes, there do seem to be “ambulances” on the road at times, but they look more like vans with the word “emergency” painted on the side. I’m not convinced there are any sort of life-sustaining medicines or tools inside. Also, they are just as trapped in the traffic as everyone else, and would probably not end up making it to a hospital in time anyway.

So, with all these sobering thoughts, I’m grateful every day that we are relatively healthy and have yet to need a doctor visit for even a minor issue. That is, until this week.

On Thursday night, I was going about my usual bedtime routine. We had just finished packing for a weekend away at my work’s mountain cottage, and I was looking forward to a relaxing few days off the grid. Then, randomly, as I stood up, my lower back gave an ominous twinge and trapped me in a half-standing position like an old lady in a bad sitcom. Holy crap.

I’ve pulled back muscles before and gotten back pain from sleeping in a weird position all night. These are painful, but easily handled with a bit of stretching and extra care for a few days. This time was different. It was a close second to childbirth. I managed to fall onto the bed and immediately tried all the “recovery” positions I know, the crunched-up-like-a-ball one, the one-leg-at-a-time-pull, the butt-in-the-air-bend… I finally settled on the crying-fetal-position, hoping that a night of sleep and a relaxing swim in the morning would make some difference.

Friday morning, in excrutiating pain, I managed to hobble to a friend’s pool for some floating relief. It was neither relieving nor helpful. That afternoon, another friend kindly sent over a massage therapist whose life’s mission seemed to be to rid my body of tension, no matter how long it took or how many bruises formed. It was relaxing, but my back still hurt to the point of vomiting, and now I was covered in painful bruising. The therapist’s wild sign language depicting bones out of place was also not encouraging.

So, I decided to brave the hour-long car ride to the clinic on Saturday morning, in the hopes of getting a full back transplant or at least some horse tranquilizers to knock me out for a few days. This was a big step for me – I don’t usually go to the doctor or admit to any pain at all, so obviously I had reached the acceptance stage of my grief, admitting something more was wrong than just a muscle pull.

Somehow I made it through the car ride and the wait in the clinic. I did tear up a few times in the waiting room, sitting on their horrible non-ergonomic chairs. Luckily I brought B with me, and luckily he is strong enough to lift me bodily out of cars and chairs and things. At one point the tiny Indonesian nurse offered to help me out of my seat and I actually laughed at the absurdity, told her I would probably crush her, and I should probably use my husband instead. She looked relieved.

As it turned out, the doctor was very knowledgeable and actually did the leg and back mobility tests I would have expected from a doctor at home. He also recommended x-rays. After 2 radiation blasts to all of my important organs, we determined that I have an over-arched lumbar spine, which has managed to push the base of my spine off its normal resting place on my hips.

Of course, I googled that as I soon as I got in the car. Apparently this is called “lordosis” and often happens to horses. Jesus. I really did need horse tranquilizers.

Speaking of which, the doctor kindly gave me enough muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatories and painkillers to have a week-long trip. And told me I had to stay in bed for several days, and only once the pain subsides, to start a regimen of gentle strengthening and stretching. So, it sounds like this was an inevitable injury, and is probably going to be a lifetime of recovery.

At least I’ve been able to milk it, lying in bed all weekend and having the kids and B bring me food and entertainment. I’ve also been using our rolling office chair like a poor man’s wheelchair. No regrets.

All in all, I guess it could have been worse, but I would have preferred a weekend at the cottage.

3 thoughts on “Injury in Indonesia

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