Copyright 1999 W. Bruce Cameron
A few months ago I passed a kidney stone-though "kidney boulder with steel spikes sticking out of it" would be a better description of the whole ordeal, in my opinion. It all started at the health club, where I was watching women perform aerobics. Naturally, I assumed the sharp pain in my side was just my body's usual reaction to exercise, and quickly hit the showers so my muscles would know I wasn't about to try that type of exertion myself.
A couple hours later, though, it was even worse--it felt like a large, rabid walrus had bitten me in the side. Those of you who have had this happen to you can comprehend what I am saying here. I called my wife. "You were just kidding about that voodoo doll thing, right?" I asked her. Then I explained what was happening, using words like "near death" and "state of national emergency" so she would know I wasn't exaggerating. Her response was to remind me that she was in labor for 26 hours with our first child.
"Oh, this is far worse than that," I promised her, earning myself the Dial Tone Award for Least Appreciation of Cervical Dilation by a Husband.
Then, and I still resent my body for this, it got even worse. "Hey!" I shouted with considerable self-pity. "HEY!" I could think of no reason why my nervous system should be capable of communicating such agony.
A call to the doctor confirmed I could have an appointment in about sixty days, just fifty-nine days after my autopsy. "We have to go to the emergency room. The ER," I gasped professionally to my wife, whose expression did not convey the appropriate amount of concern. "This is ten times worse than having a baby," I moaned, so she would appreciate just how bad it was. Her response is not printable in this column--let's just say "appreciation" doesn't exactly fit the mood. She became even more testy when I tried to convince her to carry me to the car so I could remain in the fetal position.
At the ER I looked like an animal caught in a steel trap. "No, you go ahead," urged two guys with shotgun wounds. "I was in labor for 26 hours," my wife informed the admissions clerk. They formed a committee and unanimously approved a resolution that women have a higher threshold for pain, while the hospital auditors went over my financial statements, checked my insurance companies, and interviewed my neighbors to make sure I could pay for the lack of service I was about to receive. In the waiting room, I tried to distract myself with a magazine article. Richard Nixon was Time's "Man of the Year."
Passing a kidney stone feels a little like giving birth to a herd of longhorn cattle. "My spleen and liver are coming out too," I warned anyone who would listen. "Shouldn't we notify the media about this?"
"Put on this paper gown," the nurse instructed. "We want everyone to be able to see your butt."
Then, as if that weren't humiliating enough, she handed me what looked like a coffee filter to "trap" the stone in when it "came out."
"You want me to use this?" I demanded. "Give me a catcher's mitt. Get a ten-gallon bucket. You don't seem to understand, this thing is HUGE."
When she explained what it was coming out OF, I nearly fainted.
I finally did deposit the source of my agony in the trap, and it was, admittedly, less like a porcupine than I expected, but by then I was past caring. The stone was whisked off by a lab assistant to be sent to the United States Center for the Study of the Most Painful Objects in the Universe, Far More Painful than Having a Baby, and I was given the cheery advice that once your kidneys start producing these rocks, they don't stop. "We'll be seeing you again," the nurse promised with a wink, handing me a bill which guarantees that my children will never go to college.
"No, you won't," I vowed, "I'm having my kidneys removed at the first possible opportunity."
Copyright W. Bruce Cameron 1999
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