Things I’d change in the doctor’s room

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.

Judges award photo first place in state contest

A MOMENT TO REMEMBER - Aaron Romberg of Plainfield finds a moment of solitude to visit his father’s grave at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, IL on Memorial Day. I took this photo while on assignment for Memorial Day ceremony.  I snapped the photo feeling maybe I was violating a moment of privacy in a public place but Romberg  was cool with it and gave me his name. It was published in the paper that week and I almost forgot about it until the Illinois Press Association's annual editorial contest. Submitted in photog contest and judges awarded it first place among general news photo entries. A lesson learned that sometimes the best photos can be found away from the main event as people show their emotions when they feel they're somewhere private.

A MOMENT TO REMEMBER – Aaron Romberg of Plainfield finds a moment of solitude to visit his father’s grave at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, IL on Memorial Day. I took this photo while on assignment for Memorial Day ceremony. I snapped the photo feeling maybe I was violating a moment of privacy in a public place but Romberg was cool with it and gave me his name. It was published in the paper that week and I almost forgot about it until the Illinois Press Association’s annual editorial contest. Submitted in photog contest and judges awarded it first place among general news photo entries. A lesson learned that sometimes the best photos can be found away from the main event as people show their emotions when they feel they’re somewhere private.

When the meaning of Christmas took center stage

It was 19 years ago when terror nearly seized the Fisher household just before Christmas.

Our youngest daughter Kelly came home from school one day in tears, announcing that she had been chosen to be the Littlest Christmas Tree in the upcoming school play. She was scared of her unexpected role.

A sympathetic mother tried to reason with the first grader that she must have been chosen for a reason.

Kelly’s response was that she was picked because she foolishly raised her hand because all the other girls in her class had done the same. She cried even louder as she alleged that the teacher had picked her only because, “She doesn’t like me. What am I going to do?” Kelly blubbered between crocodile tears, “I don’t want to be the Littlest Christmas Tree.”

It seemed the Fisher household was about to get out control so I did what any concerned dad would do. I told Kelly that since she volunteered she had better toughen up and live up to the role.

My logic only made matters worse, the Queen scolded,  so for the next week I was advised to keep my mouth shut until the Christmas play was over.

It didn’t help that a couple of days later Kelly’s cousins, who were also in the pageant, and her Uncle Jeff, stopped at our house. Her cousins began rehearsing their parts by breaking out in song.

“You’re puny! You’re small. You’re not even tall!

You could never be a Christmas tree at all! 

You’re tiny! It’s true! You’ll just never do! Santa Claus would never pick a tree like you! 

Oh, no, no, no, no! No way at all! Oh, no, no, no. You’re just too small! “

Kelly didn’t participate, but instead headed off to her room to sulk away the pain of hearing that song. It was a reminder that she would be taking center stage in front of hundreds of students, parents and grandparents at St. Rose Church.

Every night for the rest of that week tears were shed and  the Queen consoled as Kelly tried to memorized her lines in the play. And every time she heard her cousins sing, “You’re puny! You’re small. You’re not even tall!….” her fears would escalate.

For those unfamiliar with the musical skit it goes like this.

It begins with elves dancing and singing while decorating a dozen kids dressed as Christmas trees. The trees are singing, too. But no one is decorating the Littlest Christmas tree, but she is smiling and singing along anyway.

The elves pick up some hand mirrors and hold them in front of the trees so they can look at themselves.

The trees boast at how beautiful they have been decorated. One brags that he will be picked by Santa, while another claims she will be his favorite.

An elf reminds them that they are all beautiful trees but only one can be Santa’s very own Christmas tree. Soon all the elves are singing 

I’m gonna be Santa’s tree. Lookie, lookie, lookie at me!

When that Santa looks at me, I am all he’ll need to see!

I’ve got what it takes to be Santa’s tree.

The Littlest Tree then pipes up, “Gee, I sure wish Santa would pick me to be his Christmas tree.”

Kelly said her first lines right on cue, holding back her fears in front of the St. Rose student body. Her drab Littlest Christmas tree costume made her look all alone.

One of the decorated trees said to her: “You?! You’ve got to be kidding!”

All the trees and elves pointed at my daughter, the Littlest Tree, and laughed.

Littlest Tree: “What’s wrong with me?”

An elf answered: “What’s wrong with you?! You’re puny, that’s what!”

Another elf added, “Yeah, you’re the tiniest tree we’ve ever had in this lot! You could never be a good Christmas tree!”

All the decorated trees then said: “No way! Never!”. Then came that dreaded moment, the singing of the Tiny Tree Rap which resulted in tons of tears at home. I held my breath.

“You’re puny! You’re small. You’re not even tall!….

She blushed and squirmed in her costume as they sang and pointed at her. The song took forever to end but she made it through it without shedding a tear.

Santa, played by Pat Sweeney, and Mrs. Claus (Jordan Rink) arrived on stage and all the trees fidgeted around trying to strike the perfect pose. Mr. and Mrs. Claus carefully looked over the trees but couldn’t decide, announcing that every tree was beautiful.

Santa was then bombarded with requests from the decorated trees to, “Pick me, pick me, I’m the best decorated tree.”

As the requests crescendoed, Santa covered his ears and yelled, “Stop! Stop! These trees don’t care about Christmas. All they care about is themselves!”

One tree asked, “What’s wrong with that?”

Santa’s response was, “Is that what you think Christmas is about?”

Looking at each other they all nod and said, “Yeah. Of course.”

Santa, shaking his head, declared that it was terrible and asked, “Doesn’t anyone know what Christmas is?

Little Kelly walked up to Santa and said, “I do, Santa.”

It was at that moment this proud father nearly teared up when his little girl let out a perfect solo. My Littlest Christmas Tree sang, “Christmas is Love. Christmas is caring. Christmas is friends together sharing.”

Then all the other kids on stage sang the chorus too. In the end Kelly finished with a  “But more than anything, Christmas is love.”

Santa walked up to my Little Kelly and announced, “This is my Christmas Tree!” and everyone applauded.

Yes, Christmas is love and this proud father felt it grow that night when a brave little soul underneath that Littlest Christmas Tree costume turned out to be the perfect pick.

The one mistake I made was not getting a video of the Christmas play. My advice to parents as you attend your child’s Christmas events is to take video of them. Because 19 years later you’ll wish you did.

Help find this missing poodle

Help find this missing poodle

An urgent plea is being made to find this missing poodle. Signs posted in the Wilmington business district about the missing dog reads: “Missing (sick) small poodle, hair on head, ?????, Needs meds. Pls any info call (two phone numbers given). The P.S. says: Was wearing T-shirt”

I was tempted to call the owner and say:
“Man, your dog needs more than just meds”
or how about:
“Wearing a T-shirt? What did it say?”
“I think I saw your dog at a Grateful Dead concert”

Feeling creative? What would you say? I’d like to hear your comments

A man stopper

A man stopper

TALK ABOUT A MAN STOPPER – Was on my way back to the office after taking a photo of 1,500 pounds of fresh catfish being delivered to a local store for Catfish Days (our town festival) when I was stopped cold in my tracks. Yes it was a black bra hanging from a dumpster. Naturally I had to get out and feel it, (oops I mean) photograph it. I stood there contemplating a bit if it was wrong that I suddenly had the urge to go dumpster diving. I don’t know what I was expecting to find other than trouble. So I drove with a whole new outlook on my day. When was the last time you saw a black bra hanging from a dumpster?

Not your average Joe

As the publisher of newspapers you never know when you’ll come across a story. Walking back from the post office last Wednesday, I came across a man riding a bike loaded down with gear. A couple a questions turned into a quick interview and the following story.


by Eric Fisher

Eighteen months ago Joe Loris made a bold decision to save a 17-year-old’s life. Now he’s undertaking a daring move in hopes of saving his own.

“I’ve got nothing to loose,” the 53-year-old former dock worker said Wednesday as he stood at the corner of Wilmington’s downtown intersection. “It might seem crazy but you only live once and sometimes you have to follow your dreams.”

The Berwyn, IL resident is biking historic Route 66, at least 1,800 miles across seven states. He’s making the trek not for nostalgia’s sake, but more to get his life straight.

“I’m an alcoholic and it came down to giving up the booze and getting on my bike,” Loris said. “I can do this as long as I stay out of the bars.”

That will be his biggest challenge, he admits, as there are hundreds of taverns between here and the end of the Mother Road.

Loris has sobered up before. He did it in December 2011 shortly before donating a kidney to a neighbor kid. Jordan Caal, who was 17 at the time, had already been through two kidney transplant surgeries — and both were rejected. He’d suffered from defective kidneys since the age of 2.

Joe noticed that Caal wasn’t out playing basketball with other teens in the neighborhood anymore. So one day he walked across the street to speak with Jordan’s mom. She told him the bad news, the second kidney transplant failed, and that Jordan was back on dialysis three days a week.

“I told her right then that Jordan could have one of mine,” Loris said. “I said it more for myself than for him. I figured I’d have to stop drinking if I was a match.”

The teen’s mother, Sandy Gamboa, told him it was a nice gesture but didn’t want her son to get his hopes up. Nonetheless, Joe persisted and was surprised when doctors told him he was a match.

He committed to do it and hid his addiction well while enduring five months of tests, probes and doctor’s appointments. No matter how hard he tried, alcohol was the only cure he knew to overcome his severe depression. He said he fed the doctors “a bunch of BS” during that time. 

“My drinking messed up my life. It led to my divorce, I lost my job and my two kids gave up on me,” Loris said. “With all that, I was determined to do something good and giving a kidney seemed like the answer. I wanted Jordan to make a better life of it than I did and the only way he was going to get a chance was with my kidney.”

Doctors told Joe he had to be sober at least one month before the surgery would be scheduled. Twice it had to be pushed back. After the second time, Joe, cloaked with depression, went on a drinking binge. He came out of it more determined than ever to sober up. He stayed motivated long enough for the transplant to be completed.

Loris said he has no regrets about donating his kidney. Caal turned 18 with a new lease on life. The recipient returned to school and now has a job just like any other teenager. With medication and lots of prayer, his body will never reject his new kidney.

For Loris it’s been a different story. As the exhilaration from saving a life faded, Joe’s depression returned and so did the booze. He craved a change and the realization that he needed to put the same value on his own life as he did with Caal’s.

“It was time for me to get off my butt and stop feeling sorry for myself,” commented Loris.

He dreamed of motoring Route 66 but couldn’t afford it on a $900 per month Social Security benefit. Determined, like the days before the surgery, he opted to do it by bicycle instead.

He mapped out his route, packed everything he might need — including a tent, roll-up mattress, small cook stove, soap, canned goods, tools and tire parts —and hit the road last week.

His first stop was Joliet where he slept in a park. By 10:30 a.m. Wednesday he was taking a self-portrait under the Gemini Giant at the east entrance to Wilmington. He intended to make a quick stop in Braidwood after hearing about its roadside attraction, the metal art animal zoo, and hoped to make it to Dwight before nightfall.

“I have everything I need,” he said while testing the straps securing his 100-pound load. “I intend to take it one state at a time going to Arizona for sure. I’m not sure I’ll go all the way to California.”

There is no family or friends to see along the way. His only contact will be by cell phone with his son and daughter. His daughter texted twice while he was being interviewed by this reporter. He shared the message: Dad where are you, we are worried about you.

Loris cracked a little smile as he read it.

“My kids, my family, they were there for me, and for them to be there for me and for me to go back to being an alcoholic, that’s not right,” Loris said. “I owe it to them and I owe it to myself to get my life together.”

Hopefully, he’ll find the answers on the Mother Road. He admits he still has a long, long way to go.

Editor’s note: Loris traveled approximately 400 miles in six days. As of Monday night, he was in Cuba, MO, making repairs to the rack on the rear of his bike. 

Blacktop creativity

Blacktop creativity

I COULDN’T HELP WONDERING the other day while walking to the post office if this is a form of artistic impression using blacktop as a medium or a quick fix on an old city problem. So I take it the city crew was out patching holes when they came across a broken concrete curb in need of repaid. So Billy Bob must have said to Bobby Bill, “Hey, I can solve this,” then proceeded to slather on the asphalt. The tricky part must have been rounding off the hot road mix without using their hands in an attempt to match the concrete curb. Ingenious!