As I may have mentioned, Tom and I are on hiatus for a month in California frolicking with friends and family and meeting with orthopedic people about his bone-on-boney knees. Bad knees have become his biggest handicap during his weekly pasture golf game–besides the bulls. Please see my blog on Pasture Golf (4-14-14).
So midst appointments with the “knee guys,” we took time off to join Marianne and Ron and their fun family at their spectacular camp in the Sierras. It can be the highlight of our year..enjoying the out-‘o-doors to the max: picking berries, skeet-shooting, bocce-balling, riding on top of ole Smokey horse, driving golf balls, swimming in the lake, BBQ’ing on the campfire, not to mention their “Bear-verage Bar.” So after our first day there, we were totally relaxed and buzzed into a sort of a rocky mountain high..which quickly morphed into a stoney mountain low.
Our second night in our cozy, rustic cabin, Tom awakened me moaning with mortal pain. This was not his usual “stubbed-toe-on-the-bed-frame” pain, this was the “Grave Digger-monsta-truck on-his-back” kind of pain. “My back is IMPLODING!” he agonized. “I’m SICK..throwing up EVERYTHING!” In Hawaii, we refer to this de-fooding condition as “calling the whales.” In the woods, it’s “calling the bears.” Or..how much upchuck could a woodchuck upchuck when a woodchuck upchucks in the the wood?
Since we were in the boonies of beardom, I had to grab my flashlight, take a chance while helping Tom to the outhouse, trot over to Marianne and Ron’s cabin (which was about 350 bear tracks away) and ask where the nearest ER was. Hosts love that! They live for being awakened at 2 a.m. Then knowing that you’re going to get totally lost, insist on providing a middle-of-the-night field trip to the nearest ER which, of course, is more than a one hour’s drive down a dark, winding road where deer leap in front of cars and all manner of road-kill happens. Nothing good ever happens after midnight. That’s when ERs are the busiest.
Marysville Rideout Hospital was no exception (no, it’s not a drive-through) and the staff is fabulous. They even worked Tom in before the shirtless/shoeless guy whose eyes were spinning and who was talking to the waiting room wall and calling her “Babe.” In the exam room, the intern took his fist and pushed it into the right side of Tom’s lower back. “Arrr-ghh-ohhhh-sh*t!” he exclaimed as he doubled up in pain. The intern asked, “Did that hurt?” Then for fun, he repeated his fist bump on the left side. Fortunately, the room was sound-proofed. The intern queried, “Have you ever had a kidney stone before?” Now in total agony and with hardly an ounce of energy left, Tom mumbled, “No.” “Well you do now,” smiled the intern as if Tom should get a gold medal. After lot$ of test$, the diagnosis was confirmed, an IV was started followed by a morphine chaser. The male doctors ALL said that a kidney stone is as painful as childbirth. I don’t know how a guy can channel that pain for comparison. I think only a female mom who has also had a kidney stone would be a more reliable source–maybe like Michelle Duggar. But I don’t know if she’s had one. I know that Tom hopes this will be his only child.
A gazillion thanks to our incredible friend, St. Ron (who is now on a par with St. Christopher in our eyes), we got back to camp with enough pain meds to carry Tom through the next few days’ activities and a little sieve for him to pee through. It was important for him to catch the stone when it passed. Describing this process was a challenging one for Marianne when her cute, people-wise, 9-year-old grandson, Tyler, asked, “What happened to Tommy Tunes?” (their name for Tom). The conversation went something like this:
Marianne: “He was in the hospital.”
Tyler: “THE HOSPITAL! Why?”
Marianne: “He has a kidney stone.”
Tyler: “Huh? What’s that?”
Marianne: “Its a stone in your kidney.”
Tyler: “Where’s your kidney?”
Marianne: “You have two of them and they’re in your lower back. They’re like little waste disposal dump trucks in your body. Helps you get rid of stuff.”
Tyler: “Well–how did the stone get there? How did that happen? Did Tommy swallow it?”
Marianne: “No, it kinda just formed in there like an ice crystal in Frozen.”
Tyler: “How big is it?” (Personally, I think Tyler might be showing some promise as a medical reporter.)
Marianne: “It’s kinda big. Over two centimeters.” Knowing that Tyler’s next question would be ‘how big is a centimeter?’ she continued, “A centimeter is about the size of a Skittle or an M&M. So Tommy’s would be the size of an M&M peanut, a Dum Dum or a quarter.” Brilliant grandmothers always explain in kid-speak.
Tyler: “Well–how does he get rid of it?”
Marianne: “Um-mmm, that’s the hard part.” Fully aware that her explanation was going to take a boy into a world even more shocking than Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, she took a deep breath and explained, “So..the stone has to travel down a tube from the kidney to your bladder. Your bladder is kinda like a bagpipe bag. It holds your pee.”
Tyler: “WHAT? So this stone has to go all the way down to Tommy’s pee bag?”
Marianne: “Yep. That would be correct”..hoping that the next question wouldn’t come, but of course it did.
Tyler: “Then what happens? Does it melt?”
Marianne: “Nope. He has to pee it out.” She braced herself.
Tyler: “WHAT? NO! HE HAS TO PEE IT OUT?” Unbelieving, his eyes had already been wide-open with this agonizing thought. Now his baby blues were the size of Blueberry Tootsie Pops. “ARE YOU SURE?” The awful realization had sunk in. To pee it out meant only one thing: “IT HAS TO COME OUT HIS HOO-HOO?” Tyler grabbed his crotch and bent over in pain with the thought. “OO-OOO-OOOH-HHHH! Poor Tommy Tunes! OH-HH. Not his HOO-HOO! I’m going to go give him a hug. Ohh-hh.” And off he ran, still holding his crotch.
Tom showed Tyler the sieve that he had to pee through so he could catch the stone for analysis. Tyler wanted to keep it but understood that it had to go to Tom’s doctor in Los Angeles. When the time came for the “stone passage” it turned out to be a boulder the size of Plymouth rock. It required an extra weight charge for his carry-on baggage. The expression “you can’t get blood from a stone” was proved totally false that day.