Getting married after being a widower for six years was one of the craziest, bravest, who-da-thunk-it things I have ever done. As if a stress test was a required pre-marital experience, my body decided to give my future wife a glimpse of how her beloved handled pain.
And I got a glimpse at how my future bride would stand by her man during a health crisis.
The summer of 2017 found me coming to the realization that I had fallen in love with a cute mid-50’s paralegal named Patrice. To my utter delight and surprise, she possessed the same feelings. But her love was about to be put to a test even before we were married.
In mid-June of that year, I awoke one morning with a stabbing, piercing, pain from the depths of Hades. I knew immediately what it was. I had another kidney stone.
I am sure women hate them as much as men do, but I can’t help but think they snicker behind our backs thinking all the while that men will finally get a small taste of what childbirth feels like. Wipe that smirk off your face, ladies! At least after childbirth, you have someone cute and cuddly to hold and love. Nobody loves a kidney stone.
It was soon confirmed I had a 6 mm stone located at the top of my ureter, just outside my left kidney. To give you some perspective, 6 mm is the size of a very nice pearl. The first step in the protocol is to take painkillers, drink lots of water, and hope it passes.
Now the following details may come under the heading of what my adult children frequently tell me. “TMI, Dad, TMI” as in Too Much Information. But for those of you who like to hear horror stories with a happy ending, read on. For the rest of you, may your kidneys always treat you nicely!
After a few weeks and the stone having remained stubbornly in place, the doctor said it looked like we had to go to step two — blast the sucker. Unfortunately, it was at this point the doc admitted that he no longer did surgery on Medicare patients. Really? That’s when he recommended his partner, who had no such bias. Soon I was scheduled for the sonic blasting. Patrice and I had been dating about a year, and she offered to accompany me to the hospital. The procedure complete, I left with a stent in my ureter and an anxious hope that Satan’s horn crusted pellet had been atomized into dust.
By now, I knew more about urology than I ever wanted to know. For example, the composition of kidney stones can vary. They can be like compacted sand that evaporates upon being sonically blasted. Or they can be as hard as concrete, encrusted with a sharp, spike-like exterior that makes a stone’s journey to freedom a nightmare for the carrier of said stone. In my case, a lifetime of drinking iced tea had caught up with me. The next x-ray confirmed that the stone had been immune to the blast. It defiantly remained in place, unmoved, unbroken, all the while, sharpening its spikes and laughing at the audacity of hope I had possessed. The only thing crushed was my spirit.
At this point, having lived with this throbbing pearl of pain for six weeks, I decided to give it a name. It was christened “Freddy” in honor of my best friend, who is known as a world-class producer of kidney stones. Though calling it Freddy gave it far more respectability than it deserved, it allowed me to avoid the crudeness of screaming its more deserved name of %#$*&!!!.
This thing was killing my golf game. Besides, Patrice was getting a front-row seat at seeing her “boyfriend” under pressure, in pain, and not in a good mood. Rather than running for cover, she offered encouragement. At this point, my doctor said we needed to go to step three, as in, go in and get that sucker — not sure I wanted to know the details of how he planned to accomplish that feat. Unfortunately, his schedule was such that surgery would be another month, if not longer.
I should insert here, that having witnessed how Patrice was handling my medical drama of the summer of 2017, I decided to pop the question and on July 30th, she became my fiancé. At about this same time, she confessed to being unimpressed with my local Urologist and strongly encouraged me to change doctors. She highly recommended a Dr. J.D. Quarles in Augusta. Since we would be living near Augusta, it made sense to have a new Urologist to handle the follow-up. She was right. Dr. Q was a consummate professional, easy to talk to, answered all my questions, quickly scheduled my surgery, and did an outstanding job of delivering me from the 6 mm diabolical boulder that refused to budge.
A quick recovery found us walking down the aisle in September. This ordeal revealed much about ourselves to the other. She discovered her husband-to-be could handle pain without throwing things or using expletives. I confirmed that my bride was a woman of faith and loyalty who possessed a fierce protective spirit.
I guess we have a kidney stone to thank for those revelations.
Naw, I think we knew it all along.