The joy of kidney stones and the parallel universe

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Husband-and-wife journalists Bob Miller and Callie Clark Miller use this space to offer their views on everyday issues.

SHE SAID: I worried a lot about giving birth when I was pregnant with Dawson. A lot. You see, I don't handle pain all that well. My threshold is low, nearly nonexistent based on the way I carry on when I get a paper cut or stub my toe.

So I was concerned about handling the pain of labor and delivery. But I survived; in fact, the experience wasn't all that painful for me (I stress "for me" because I know there are women out there mentally flipping me off right about now). That's funny now, because I recently discovered there is something much, much worse than the pain of labor and delivery. Something so tiny in comparison with a newborn. And it's called a kidney stone.

It's sort of comforting to know that while women must endure the pain of birthing a child, men are also prone to this other agony just as much as women. I didn't shed a tear or let out a scream when I had Dawson, but let me tell you I thought I was dying when the pain hit my lower back two weeks ago.

Apparently the employees in the local ER thought so, too; that's the fastest I've ever been seen at a hospital!

After a CT scan, a couple doses of morphine and a round of antibiotics, the kind ER folks sent me home and asked me to follow up with a local specialist later in the week. And that's about the point when life's sense of humor kicked in. I spent the evening vomiting, including the anti-vomiting pills I'd been given.

The next evening, I looked in the mirror and wondered why my face was so red. Oh, and puffy. And why my eyes were swollen. And why my arm was covered in tiny red spots which were themselves covered in hives. Oh, and my other arm, and my stomach, back, legs.

Note to self: Remember allergic reaction to Cipro.

A couple of days later, I went to see the specialist, who told me he'd need to remove the kidney stone because it was likely too large to pass on its own. An invasive procedure (very invasive, but then after childbirth, nothing seems all that daunting).

I was supposed to return to work from my maternity leave this week, but put it off another week because of this. And after lots of pain, 12 hours of fasting and general anesthesia, the stone didn't even have the dignity to be there. Apparently, it wasn't too large to pass.

Oh, am I ready to be back at the office.

HE SAID: I've been walking around in an altered state since the birth of my second son. Around 3 p.m. every day, I hit what I call the Dawson Wall, where fatigue seems to catch up with me and I begin having dull headaches and begin slurring my words. I don't drink alcohol and take no drugs to speak of, so I figure the lack of sleep and a poor diet is catching up with me. Sometimes I find myself wondering if this is all real.

Am I really a dad again? Am I really working today or am I dreaming about work? Why won't this headache go away? Is my wife really doubled over in pain? Does she really need me to take her to the ER? Is this a joke?

Are you there, Lord? You are? Do you really think this is funny?

Am I really in this emergency room watching this IV drip? Drip. Drip. Drip.

Will that stone really pass on its own? Then, later, is this procedure really necessary? Is that really my wife with the swollen red face and spots? Can this get any more frustrating?

Jay Purcell did what? Huh? Secret recordings?

What about Pamela Anderson? Are you kidding?

Obama's coming to Cape? Seriously?

Any moment I intend to wake up and return from the parallel universe. Until then, I'll keep scratching my head, asking questions, changing diapers and drinking Mountain Dew. That's how I keep it real.

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