A Rock AND A Hard Place: Passing A Stone, Swallowing Pride

A Rock AND A Hard Place: Passing A Stone, Swallowing Pride

By Gene Mueller. CREATED Mar 7, 2014


It started with a twinge early Sunday morning, and ended with a "plink" Thursday afternoon.

In between, I lived through my third encounter with a kidney stone.

Yeah, one of THOSE.

Mention your kidney stone to anyone else who's ever had one and you become instant soul mates, bound by a unique and occasionally humbling experience.  Going to a hospital ER with gravel in your plumbing isn't nearly as glamourous as showing up with burns suffered while rescuing kids from a burning orphanage, or with wounds endured while pulling an accident victim from a car that's about to explode.  

I felt the first twinge early Sunday morning--enough to wake me up, but not enough to keep me from falling back asleep.  And, when it was time to start the day, I was pain free.

That ended Monday morning about an hour into the show.  Mild discomfort became constant, distracting pain in my ride side.  It didn't throb, it only intensified.  By seven a.m., I was sweating and twisting in my chair trying to find a position that would bring relief.   There was none to be had. I thought about handing the show over but figured that a) I wasn't a biohazard and b) I wasn't contagious.  Stones aren't like pink eye, so I figured I could gut it out.  I made it to 8:25, bidding an on-air farewell to our last guest before turning off the mike and announcing to my in-studio co-workers that I was heading to the ER for relief.  I hadn't told them before what was going on, and I think they were a little surprised.

An hour later, I was in a hospital gown with an IV in my arm, morphine coursing through my veins providing sweet relief.   The ache was still there, but it was manageable.  Tests were done, and I did a spin through the CT scan, the ride to which provided one of the episode's more painful moments.   The woman pushing my gurney was pleasant and sympathetic, making small talk as she shoved me down the hall.   Then it happened.

"So," she asked sincerely, "how long have you been retired?"

Another morphine drip, STAT, for my wounded ego please.

With prescriptions in hand, I was sent home that afternoon, the doctor confirming that I indeed had stones (one that I was passing, with buddies staying behind in my kidneys) and that I might have more bouts with severe pain until it completed its journey.  That's when I decided to take Tuesday off: who knew when it would announce its presence again?  Why take a chance of having to wake co-workers out of a dead sleep to say I was a no-go?   

I felt bad Tuesday, not medically but mentally for being off from work when I really wasn't in any discomfort.  There were new twinges, though, in other parts of my plumbing system that night and they would intensify until Thursday afternoon when I sired this:



Say "hello" to my little friend, all 6mm of him.  He and I are off to the urologist's office Friday so they can figure out why he and his buddies are doing condo in my gutty works and to make sure I do things to get them to break their lease on my kidneys.

Illness is humbling.  It reminds you that you're vulnerable, even at times when you feel ten-feet tall and bulletproof.  I'd just been to the doctor at the start of the year and my blood work was outstanding with no red flags.

Humility comes as you finally admit you can't bear the pain anymore, that you have to suck it up and hit the ER.  It comes when they hand you that damn gown, the one designed to make sure that, now matter how hard you try and tie, your white pasty ass is out there for all the world to see.   It happens when you're asked about your bathroom habits, when doctors poke and prod, when the orderly wheeling you to your CT scan assumes you're a pensioner.  It comes when you find out the specialist handing your case is way younger than you--in fact, when EVERYONE you see along the path of treatment seems young enough to be a son or daughter.  It's there when you're forced to do your bathroom business with a strainer in your hand, like a miner panning for gold in in 1840's California.   Trouble is, that's not "Au" you eventually come up with.

Egos heal, though, and the minor indignities can be suffered with a laugh after the fact, especially when you get relief as well as answers.   This, too, has passed and hopefully what remaining rocks I have in my vitals decide to stay put until they can be blasted apart over time with sound wave demonry.   

If you've ever had one of these bad boys, we share a bond and feel each other's pain.  We've been there, we've done that, and we've got the t-shirt to prove it.

And, sweet relief.

Gene Mueller

Gene Mueller

Gene is a Milwaukee radio legend having spent over 30 years on-air waking up Wisconsin. Start your day with Gene for breaking news, weather, sports, traffic and a laugh!