I’m getting tired of pulling down my pants.
No, I’m not a perv, just a overworked newspaper man who’s had two surgeries in the past three weeks for kidney stones. I suspect the first time they didn’t get all the stones the first time because they didn’t see them through all the ink in my system.
So my twice-a-week routine the past four weeks has been to walk into the doctor’s office, unzip and drop my pants.
It became so habit-forming that during my last visit, after being escorted to an exam room, I walked in and did it automatically.
“What are you doing?” the nurse asked as I stripped down to my boxer briefs.
“I’m in a hurry today so I’m getting ready for the doctor,” I replied.
She informed me that they were needing just my blood pressure and temperature. “So you can pull your pants up,” the nurse chuckled, “unless you want me to use an old thermometer to take your temperature somewhere else.”
In a flash my pants and belt were up and buckled tight.
I’ll never forget when and where I was when kidney stones first interrupted my life. I was on assignment in Champaign, IL covering Wilmington’s football team during the Class 3A state championship.
Like most Wildcat fans, I was on a natural high that day when Wilmington ran out of the tunnel onto Memorial Field. The ‘Cats had reached the pinnacle newspaper men live for and the discomfort building in my abdomen wasn’t about to get in the way.
At half-time I headed for the men’s room for a potty break. Standing there, in the warmth, felt good until something didn’t feel right. Suddenly I felt a piercing pain, flow was interrupted and then a burning sensation.
Damn, I’m catching a fever, I thought as my back and legs were suddenly riddled with aches and pains. After a cold sweat, I gathered up my photo equipment, regained my composure, and shot the rest of the game. Thankfully, I witnessed the game-winning kick that gave the Wildcats their first football state title in school history.
My little incident in the boys room was history too, I thought, as later that night, after covering the 10 p.m. pep rally back at the school, I felt fine.
The Monday after Christmas, pain was back with a vengeance. If I could have bottled it up and inflicted it on some terrorist group I would have. Instead, I went to the doctor’s office for an MRI and was told two stones in my kidney were too big to pass without surgery.
That began a four-week run of more doctors visits. I’ve been spending oodles of time in waiting rooms often thinking about how I would improve things. Here are some suggestions:
• Install a barber’s chair. I would gladly pay to have a haircut while waiting for the doc. Imagine scheduling your appointment and showing up early knowing you can get a haircut too. A corner in the waiting room for a pedicure and nail job might would be nice too.
• Get rid of the magazines. My belief is they just harbor disease. Sick people read them and picking them up only means they’re spreading illness.
• Turn the TV channel. On three occassions while waiting, the station was turned to the Maury Show. I don’t need to know who is the father of someone’s baby is and how many other kids are confused who is their real daddy.
• Put a label on the gown for patients. I slipped mine on wrong, with the front open like a robe, rationalizing that they were going to be working on my front side so that’s the way it should be worn. It was a slight embarrassment for a guy who seldom goes to the doctor’s office.
• Stop asking so many questions. It feels like interrogation. By the time I answered all the non essential questions, I’d forgotten the questions I meant to ask.
• And then there’s that question they hate to ask but do, “Do you feel threatened by anyone?” I wanted to respond with, “Just my wallet, with the amount of spending my wife and daughters do.” Or better yet my wallet threatened by how much this surgery is going to cost.
• Pay nurses and assistants well. They are caring, kind people who front questions and concerns of often scared patients. I was impressed with their professionalism and organization. While it sometimes seemed they were in short supply, I saw how busy they are accommodating so many people.
Here are a few tips in general
• If you’re offered a pain killer, take it. Thinking you can just tough it out isn’t the smartest decision. I found that out between my first and second procedures. The tough guy attitude on pain didn’t stick around the second time.
• Don’t always follow other people’s advice. I had someone suggest what he did for his kidney stone. He bought a 6-pack of beer, drank it and flushed it out on his own. While it may have saved him medical expenses, I got drunk on beer #3 and went straight to bed. Woke up with a headache too.
• My last tip is take someone bossy with you. My lovely bride gets pushy with me at times so I was eager to let her loose at the hospital. She insisted on answers, from the doctor and staff, and got them. She knows more about my medicines than I do, researching them online. She discovered that a daily prescription I take, written by a different doctor months ago, has side effects of causing kidney stones. After explaining her finding to the urologist we now have some place to start preventing this from happening again. Got to love her for that.