(both pics courtesy of Wikipedia – Spinda Bifida)  These x-rays show what mild deformities caused by Spina Bifida Occulta look like.  If you would like to learn more about Spina Bifida Occulta.

I was born with Spina Bifida Occulta affecting 4 vertebrae in my lumbar/sacral region.  I have had back problems all my life, but of course since I was a child & teenager, no one believed me when I complained of back ache.  By the time I was in my early 20’s I had spent numerous occasions flat on my back suffering with back pain.  By the time I was 25 I had osteoarthritis in my back & it was when they were trying to diagnose the arthritis I found out I was born with a birth defect.

I was also born with a partially club foot (my foot was turned in & the toes of my left foot curled on top of each other) which is another symptom of Spina Bifida, but no one knew it at the time.  I have not been left with any permanent noticeable deformity from my foot since my toes were individually taped & then taped across with a splint.  Every time my mother changed my diaper or fed me, she was instructed to remove the splint & massage my toes to help them move back into a more normal position.  I had special shoes & had to wear them every moment I was awake until I was about 2 years old.  To this day, if I’m driving a standard vehicle & have to do a lot of clutching (in heavy traffic), it feels like I’m stepping on shards of glass.  But other than that I don’t really suffer with my foot.

But I do still suffer with my back.  Arthritis which set into the defective vertebrae right away & then spread throughout the rest of my spine, my neck, my hips, knees, toes, wrists & fingers is my constant companion.  I did receive some relief for 20 years when a sports doctor put me on a course of steroids for 6 weeks (which is another whole blog topic).  I am extremely grateful for those years & sad now the symptoms are returning.  Between my knee injury a couple months ago & the return of arthritis symptoms I am now using a cane again for walking.

I knew a fellow named Garry in grade school.  He was not my friend – his father was the principal of our school & he didn’t have many friends.  I felt especially bad about that when I heard he died in his mid twenties from complications of Spina Bifida.  Like me, he showed no outer symptoms of this birth defect.

When I was doing the research for this piece I discovered Spina Bifida can also have an effect on your bladder & bowels.  I have an appointment next month with a urologist for bladder problems, maybe this is something I should be mentioning.  I thought my problems stemmed from my hysterectomy 7 years ago, but maybe not.  I guess I will find out next month.