Friday, February 4, 2011

"Kidney Stone II: The Sequel"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

For the past 15 years, I had taken great pains to forget a terrible episode in which I hit rock bottom. A couple of weeks ago, another terrible episode made me acutely aware that the great pains were back. And so was the rock.

In what I fear will become a series with more sequels than “Rocky,” I had my second kidney stone.

The first -- now known as Kidney Stone I, designated with a Roman numeral to distinguish it from the recent one, Kidney Stone II -- struck in 1996. It happened in my hometown of Stamford, Conn., where I received great care and got the stone as a keepsake.

The latest episode started in Stamford, on a visit to my parents’ house, and continued after my wife, Sue, and I returned to our house on Long Island, N.Y.

As a man who has been known to withstand a hangnail without flinching, I thought I could tough it out. But as the pain in my left side intensified to the point where it felt like I was trying to pass a bocce ball, I said to Sue, “I think we should go to the emergency room.”

Sue drove me to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson, where two unsettling things happened: I noticed the word “memorial” on the sign outside the building and I was asked if I was on a “do not resuscitate” list.

Otherwise, I couldn’t have been in better hands. A nurse named Ron showed his skill as a mixologist by making me a cocktail that eliminated not only the pain but most of my already limited cognitive functions.

I told Tom, the radiologic technologist who gave me a CAT scan, that we have three cats. “Will I need three scans?” I wondered.

“Just one,” said Tom, adding, in answer to my next question, “No, we don’t have a DOG scan.”

A little later, Dr. Perry Shapiro announced I had a kidney stone.

“It’s pretty big,” he said, giving me a prescription that included Percocet. Because I was still a little groggy, I didn’t quite understand the rest of it, but I thought he said I could get the meds from a couple named Flo and Max.

Shapiro also gave me a paper strainer in the hope that this, too, would pass and the name of an excellent urologist named Dr. Albert Kim.

The next day, after I had an X-ray, Sue drove me to Kim’s office in -- how appropriate is this? -- Stony Brook. As I got out of the car, I noticed a small rock in the parking lot. I picked it up and put it in the strainer.

In the office, a medical assistant named Grace asked how I was feeling.

“I think I passed the stone,” I told her.

“That’s great,” she said. “Let’s see.”

I showed her the rock in the strainer. Grace’s eyes bugged out of her head. “Oh, my God!” she exclaimed. “It’s huge.”

“Actually,” I admitted, “I found it in the parking lot.”

Grace laughed. Kim, who also was vastly amused, had already seen the X-ray. “We’ll have to blast,” he said.

“With dynamite?” I inquired fearfully.

“The Percocet is making you even dopier than usual,” Sue noted.

Kim, who assured me that he wouldn’t need explosives, scheduled the procedure in two days at a place called the Kidney Stone Center in East Setauket.

Meanwhile, I had to fill out so many forms that my hand hurt worse than my side.

On the day of the procedure, I was prepped by a very nice nurse named Gabrielle. Dr. Rick Melucci, the anesthesiologist, did everyone a favor by knocking me out. Kim then used shock waves on my kidney stone.

I’m not shocked that I am feeling much better. And I am grateful to everyone who took such good care of me, especially Sue.

Since these episodes seem to occur every 15 years, I won’t have to worry about Kidney Stone III until 2026. In the meantime, the only rocks I have will be in my head.

Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima


Heidi-"Heidi in Real Life" said...

I started laughing when I read the title. This is really, really funny. Sorry for your pain, but of course you realize how fortunate such an event is in the life of a comedy writer. Lucky Dog! ;-)

straightfromhelle said...

Ouch! Now that's what I call suffering for your art. I'm glad this episode has passed :-)

Jerry Zezima said...

Thanks, Heidi! We'll do anything for material, won't we?

Jerry Zezima said...

I'm glad, too, Michelle. Suffering is the operative word, but at least I got a column out of it.

Suzette Standring said...

Can they do shock waves on the rocks in your head? No, don't change, because the holes in mine match them. Only you could make kidney stones so amusing! Glad to hear you're back in the peak of health.

foxyroxy said...

The quarry has been excavated and the spirit has been elevated ---What's next ? Must have left your mark or laugh on the attending medical specialists . They won't forget YOU in a hurry .

Jerry Zezima said...

Suzette, if they did shock waves on the rocks in my head, there would be an avalanche. But, yes, I am back in the peak of health (physically, that is).

Jerry Zezima said...

Foxy, you're right: The medical specialists won't forget me in a hurry. And they have 15 years to recover.

Leema Thomas said...

JZ: II points (that is Roman Numeral II): I. How huge exactly was the stone? You know size does matter....II. If you wanted to blast it with dynamite, you could have just done it at home or in the car by blasting Taio Cruz' Dynamite...Really..You can find it on youtube:)

Jerry Zezima said...

Leema, I'd conservatively estimate that the stone was 4 feet in diameter, although the doctor said it was 7 millimeters. Big enough. As for blasting, I'll go to Taio Cruz, but only if there is no deductible.

Metro Journalist said...

Sorry for your pain, but now your insurance company is suffering even more. How DARE you get another kidney stone and compromise its profits again?

Jerry Zezima said...

What really hurts, Sherry, is that the insurance company is Prudential, whose logo features -- you guessed it -- the Rock of Gilbraltar.

Joanne said...

Jerry, I was right there with you through the whole thing since I witnessed this phenomenon, not once but twice, with my husband. The first time he actually locked himself in the bedroom so he wouldn't hurt anyone! After these episodes I decided to stick to having babies and let my husband have the stones!

Jerry Zezima said...

Joanne, your husband and I should get together and compare notes. I'm sure you took very good care of him, just as my wife did with me. It's a good idea to stick with having babies and let your husband have the stones. A nurse once told me that having a kidney stone is the male equivalent of childbirth. The main difference, of course, is that you don't have to put the stone through college.