I heard it was one of the most excruciating pains known to mankind. Turns out they were right.
Two Mondays ago, I completed a multi-hour workout that included running, rowing and lifting. A stupid act at my age. Afterwards, I felt I had pulled a muscle in my lower back. My wife at the time reminded me that I needed to be careful not to overdo it because I always regretted it soon afterwards. I mumbled something in reply about being spry and went on with my day. That night as we drove from a friend’s home, that pulled muscle more intensely cramped up. The pain quickly surpassed that of a cramping muscle as I rocked to and fro, heaving cilantro salad into a plastic bag from the passenger’s seat of the loser-cruiser/mini-van as she asked me repeatedly if I needed to go to the emergency room. (She also instructed me to stop holding my breath in what might have been some type of labor coaching payback.)
With shaky fingers, I texted a nephrologist friend. That’s a kidney doc for all of us non-medical types, not as another friend thought, someone who does unseemly things with dead people. He asked me where it hurt and I gave him the poorly clarified, ‘above my tailbone.’ He pointed out that was not where my kidney was. (If I had my full wits about me I surely would have said, ‘hip bone’ instead, which would have surely provided a more accurate diagnosis.) Perhaps it was “bad gas” he stated in an doctorly tone. Like him, I had my doubts about it being a kidney stone thinking that this hurt but it could not be the worst pain ever. Instead, I thought on his diagnosis wondering, ‘If this amount of gas is truly in me, then am I in danger of combusting should I walk too close to an open flame?’
In the meantime, my wife had called my bro-in-law doc and described more accurately where the pain was. As they conversed, we arrived at home and I clambered upstairs clutching my back during the Everest like summit. I proceeded to the restroom attempted the act necessary to relieve oneself of a stone and . . . nothing. She relayed Jay’s information stating that if I went to the ER they would give me pain medicine, perhaps a CT scan, and then have me lay there drinking water– something I could do at home. (Of course, this decision was reinforced by the fact that I hate hospitals and had just seen the hospital bill for Corbin’s broken arm which he describes as his doctor told him, ‘my hand broke off my arm and was held on by skin.’) So I decided this was going to be a night of sucking it up and big savings.
I took a pain pill I had left over from a previous medical encounter (bro-in-law approved). Funny how you comparatively question your pain threshold in such moments. I remembered asking, ‘I wonder how Chuck Norris would react to a kidney stone?’ which soon drifted to, ‘I wonder if this hurts more than a Chuck Norris roundhouse directly to the kidney?’ . . . a sure signs the pain pill was doing something. I wafted off to the land of semi-sleep.
The next couple of days were strange. The pain was not as sharp. I only felt a soreness in my lower back when I bent over or climbed the stairs. Middle-aged? I even ran one day trying to ‘loosen things up.’ (Not recommended.) I began to think I had either a spastic back muscle or kidney. I killed all coffee consumption and began to pound water like a camel at an oasis, just in case it had been a stone.
‘Had been’ was definitely the wrong verb tense at that point. On Friday night the pain returned only to slowly dissipate during the day on Saturday. On Sunday night, we had several friends over. One of them had described the agony of his stone and spoken of vice grips and male parts. I surely didn’t feel like that. But as the night wore on, my misery returned at monumental levels. As soon as the company left, I crawled across the cold tile bathroom floor reaching upwards to the counter as my hands groped for the comforting feel of the Loratab bottle. I don’t normally make it a habit to take pain pills. There was no question this night.
I lay in bed quietly moaning, clutching the sheets, and apologizing to Piper for putting her into labor three times as I felt as if a hot ice pick was being twisted into my kidney. I counted the hours, minutes and seconds until the next allowed dosage, finally cheating the time by 30 minutes (those who judge me for this have obviously never stoned).
The next morning I awoke giving up the routine that had gone on for a full week now, going thru the strainer. Surely this was some type of kidney infection. The pain had subsided by this point, but during the act I felt something strange as I heard a faint splish into the toilet. What an anticlimactic moment! I had expected an internal fireworks show preceding this grand event. Instead all I got was a splish??? I looked into the toilet to see my ‘friend’ laying there mocking me. After the sterile removal of the stone, I showed it in all its magnificence to Piper remarking that I was thinking of getting mounted as a solitaire on a ring. She disagreed saying, ‘Look at the spikes on that thing’ as she took it to my bro-in-law for biopsy. I had heard of multiple-stone-sufferers and begged my Creator that I had no more of those Staghorned-Satans within me. Thankfully I have not, though my water consumption has continued in epic proportions.
The Positives. I have now joined ‘the club.’ Those few souls who have experienced the worst physical pain known to mankind. I have learned the secret handshake which involves clutching a kidney whilst shaking hands with clammy palms. After experiencing a kidney stone, I figure all future pain must be like the second hill on a rollercoaster. Survivable.