While Bert was dealing with company matters in Tianjin and Beijing, Lou and Jean spent the first few months of 1901 in Japan. In part this may have been a natural caution about returning too soon to a country so recently the scene of violent turmoil, especially when they had eighteen-year-old Jean's safety to consider. Lou, however, was not well. Some months before the siege began, she had injured her tailbone when her foot slipped off the pedal of her bicycle, causing the saddle to strike her sharply at the base of her spine. The pain eased within fifteen minutes, and she continued on her way, thinking no more about it, but for the next year and a half she was plagued with backaches. Typically, she never complained. "Mrs. Hoover would never admit she was sick," one of her secretaries would remember of her years later.1 By the time she reached Japan in January 1901, the pain had gone from chronic annoyance to serious distress.
She consulted a doctor in Tokyo, but he could find nothing wrong. However, while in America, she had heard about an operation that her Aunt Nannie Henry had undergone to remove a broken coccyx. Aunt Nannie's symptoms sounded much like Lou's own. Lou said nothing at the time, not wanting to have to stay behind while Bert went back to China. But when the condition persisted, she consulted a Dr. Hall, who lived in Yokohama. Dr. Hall confirmed that her coccyx was indeed broken. He suggested an electrical treatment that he thought might relieve the pain, and to some extent, it did. At last, however, on March 5, Dr. Hall operated to remove the broken coccyx. The operation was successful, and Lou recovered rapidly. By the time her twenty-seventh birthday arrived on March 29, she was taking meals in the hotel dining room. She was even able to enjoy a carriage ride.