So this was an enjoyable week. I shared most of it with one of my good friends, Vinny. Vinny is a kidney stone and this is the twenty-second time that I’ve made a new calcium friend.
Those of you who have had a kidney stone may find it odd that I name them. I didn’t start that practice them until I was dealing with number four. On day four of that particular ordeal I was watching a horror movie marathon on TV. Right in the middle of the movie The Omen II, the stone moved and I went into what’s termed renal colic, a rather benign sounding name for the most painful condition a human being can experience. (Yes ladies, even more painful than childbirth. Linda is my definitive authority on this. She has been through both bearing children and passing a kidney stone.) As the spasm ended, the character Damien was in a scene on the TV and something in his eyes made me equate my kidney stone to the evil incarnate he was. After that I went back and named the first three using the same convention that we use for hurricanes and I’ve been doing that ever since. Vinny is number twenty-two.
I posthumously named stone number one Attila. I know what to expect now when one of these little buggers comes out to play. Back then, I had had no idea what was happening when the first wave of pain hit. I was at work and walking across a manufacturing floor when suddenly it felt like someone had stabbed me in the back.
I remember grabbing on to a storage rack for support while I fought to maintain consciousness. Slowly, I made it back to my office and sat in my chair until the pain subsided. That pain-free bliss was short lived, however, and less than thirty minutes later the pain came again. On the third bout, I called my wife and asked her to take me to the doctor.
The forth wave of pain hit while we were in the car. I don’t remember all of the details, but I do remember asking Linda why she thought that it was necessary to follow the speed limits signs. Thinking back on that, I may have used language that was just a bit more earthy.
Sue, our family doctor, knew immediately what the problem was and a shot of morphine later life was good. Of course that didn’t cure the problem, it only masked the symptom. A cure required a trip to the urologist and an ultra sound. I can’t remember the doctor’s name, but I do remember that he was Indian and talked with an Indian accent.
“Well,” he said. “It is apparent that this particular stone is too large to pass normally. We will have to break this one up with a laser.”
“I need surgery?” I asked.
“Well yes,” he replied. “But we will not have to open you up.”
“How will you get the laser to the stone?”
“Oh, we will go in through an existing entrance.”
Looking down, I said, “You mean…”
“Oh yes, that is the only way to get to the right spot. Don’t worry; I am very skilled at this.”
I had the laser procedure that afternoon and he was right; he was skilled. What he didn’t tell me in advance was that, even though the stone had been broken up, the sharp shards of it still had to make their way out. Because of the size of the stone and the gravel produced when they zapped it, they kept me overnight and sent me home the next day with enough medication to dull the pain until everything had washed out. That was a good thought…in theory.
Unfortunately, not all the pieces were gone when the medication ran out and I found myself on the phone with the doctor on day four.
“The medication is gone and I’m still passing stones,” I managed to grunt between spasms. “I need more drugs.”
On the other end of the line, Dr. India said, “Well, of course you may have more medication. But, you must know, these are not stones you are passing. These are only…fragments.”
“You can call them what you want in India,” I said through clenched teeth. “But here in South Carolina we call them boulders.”
“Oh you Americans, you have no tolerance for pain,” he said with chuckle. “I’ll have you know that once when I was a young man in India I was playing football and sprained my ankle near the beginning of the first half. You know, I played the match and scored a goal and no one knew that I had a bad ankle.”
“Yeah well, when I was in school, I broke my wrist in the first quarter of a real AMERICAN football game. I played the rest of the game too and got two sacks and a recovered fumble.”
We went back and forth for several minutes with each of us brandishing an untreated injury in front of the other while we jockeyed for pain supremacy. Eventually we came to the final exchange.
“Well, when I was twenty-six, I had to have my appendix removed. I was in a remote part of my country where medical services were very limited. The doctor who operated on me was apologetic when he told me that there were few supplies and I would have to have surgery without benefit of anesthesia. I had the surgery anyway and I was walking about the village the next day.”
“When I was eighteen, I was playing tennis with my girlfriend who was a district champion. About halfway through the first set she hit an overhead smash straight to me. I missed the ball when I tried to return and it hit me square in the crotch. Not only did I finish the match, but I also took her out to dinner and a movie right after.”
The phone was silent for a few seconds. When Dr. India finally spoke, he ended the conversation with, “You win.”
Attila was the largest stone that I’ve had, although Mick was close. Sometimes it took a week or two, but all of the rest passed without intervention. It’s too bad that I couldn’t have birthed Attila without help. Knowing how many of his brethren would follow, I probably would have had him bronzed and kept him as a souvenir. Then I could pull him out and show him to my granddaughter’s boyfriend when she brought him by to meet the crotchety old curmudgeon. That would be fun. He he he.
P.S. This story is way funnier when I tell it in person using my award winning Indian accent. Honest.