I have a collection of kidney stone cartoons with two favorites.
One is a Far Side panel of a doctor’s office. A rhinoceros is standing right behind the patient with his huge horn stuck in the patient’s lower back and the doctor says, “Wait a minute, Mr. Crumbley. Maybe it’s not kidney stones after all.”
Another is a cartoon of a doctor standing over a patient in a hospital bed, holding a wooden mallet with a head the size of an oil drum. The doctor says, “If we can break up the stones we won’t have to operate.”
If you’ve ever had a kidney stone these comics are funny to you. If you’ve never had a kidney stone I urge you hit your knees immediately, profusely give thanks to the Lord, and promise to start tithing in 2017 if God will but spare you the terrible agony of rocks in your urethra.
You’re the thorn in my side
I was barely 18 when it happened. It was a Sunday morning and I was getting ready for church when a pain on the right side of my lower back went from a mild cramp to a major earthquake in less than 30 seconds. I was scared. I was shocked. I had never experienced this level of pain —not even years earlier when I did an impersonation of a piñata by walking head-first into Russ Queen’s practice swing with a baseball bat.
At first I was afraid I might be dying. After a few minutes I was afraid I wouldn’t die. In the emergency room I was diagnosed as having a kidney stone. After the morphine kicked in I began to have hope and actually wanted to live to see my 19th birthday.
Like it was yesterday
I remember three things about the surgery. First, I didn’t really understand how anesthesia worked so I recall that my last words in the operating room were, “I’m not asleep so don’t start yet!”
The next thing I remember is waking up in the recovery room. I found out later that I was never told about the recovery room because the plan was for the anesthesia to wear off after I had returned to my regular room. When I woke up I felt very groggy and wasn’t sure where I was so I lifted my head up and looked around and saw that I was in a large room with bodies on gurneys, lying under sheets up to their necks. Their eyes were closed and they weren’t moving. I was the only one awake and moving. I thought I was in the morgue. Yes, I kinda freaked out as I’m sure the attending nurse can testify if she’s been able to stop laughing yet.
The third memory is urinating for the first time soon after the surgery. I was told it would be painful but necessary for the healing process. The best way I can describe that moment in the bathroom … how shall I put this … I was a hopping screaming human flame thrower. To this day I feel I owe some poor janitor an apology. There was a Styrofoam pitcher of ice water at my bedside because the doctor wanted me to drink lots of fluid so I could go to the bathroom frequently. I told the doctor I didn’t want to pee ever again in this lifetime. He laughed and said I was funny. My willingness to suffer for the sake of comedy goes back a long way.
Like father like son
This whole kidney stone thing is on my mind again because my son, Trevor, just 22, spent most of December trying to pass a 7mm kidney stone before submitting to surgery just before Christmas. And recovering from and dealing with complications from kidney stone surgery is a crummy way to spend the holidays, especially when it includes an 11-hour visit to the Vanderbilt ER.
As a parent you hope that your children will inherit your better qualities and adopt some of your more admirable traits. I regret that I seem to have passed along to my son the kidney stone gene that I inherited from my father. Trevor, all I can say to you is that I’ll try to make it up to you in the will.