Thursday, December 18, 2014

"The Tale of the Tape"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
At the risk of being challenged to a fight by Sylvester Stallone, who could beat me with one hand tied behind his back (though I might have a chance if he were blindfolded, too), I am going to call my ongoing kidney stone saga “Rocky.”

The boxing analogy is apt because the latest installment, “Rocky IV,” had the following tale of the tape: If there is one thing worse than having a kidney stone, it’s having your arm hair ripped out by the roots when an otherwise gentle nurse pulls the tape off your IV.

As a person who has had four kidney stones, I can say with experience, not to mention drugs, that you never really get used to them, although in my case they are to be expected because the rocks in my head apparently are falling into my kidneys, which have become the organic equivalent of quarries.

Maybe I’ll open a business. My clients could be sculptors, masons and people who make headstones. Mine could say: “Here lies Jerry Zezima, who’s now between a rock and a hot place.”

On second thought, maybe not.

But it’s the tape that sticks in my memory.

“Men hate it,” said a very nice nurse named Janet, who took good care of me in the emergency room at John T. Mather Memorial (that word makes me nervous) Hospital in Port Jefferson, N.Y.

My wife, Sue, who has always taken good care of me, drove me there recently when I had a kidney stone attack at 4 o’clock on a Saturday morning.

Janet dutifully hooked me up to an IV and started a drip that mercifully eliminated my pain, as well as a good deal of my cognitive functions.

When it was time to be unhooked, I looked up at Janet and said, “This is the worst part.”

“I know,” she replied sympathetically. “Some guys actually scream when I pull the tape off. And don’t get me started on needles. I’ve seen big, burly men who are covered in tattoos, but when I get ready to put a needle in their arm, they moan and cry. One guy fainted. I always say, ‘How did you get all these tattoos? From someone who used a needle.’ Let me tell you something: Men are babies. If they had to give birth, the human race would die out.”

“The first time I had a kidney stone,” I recalled, “a nurse told me it was the male equivalent of childbirth. I said that at least I wouldn’t have to put the stone through college.”

Janet nodded knowingly. Then she took hold of the tape and said, “Ready?”

I winced and replied, “Let ’er rip!” I instantly regretted the comment, but by then it was too late. I shrieked and said, “The drugs aren’t working anymore.”

I also had tape on my other arm, from which Janet had drawn blood.

“Good thing I’m not an octopus,” I noted.

Janet nodded again and repeated the tape removal.

“Sorry,” she said. “But it’s all over now.”

Unfortunately, the kidney stone wasn’t, so I made an appointment with my urologist, Dr. Albert Kim, who has an office in how appropriate is this? Stony Brook.

“This, too, shall pass,” Dr. Kim predicted.

Sure enough, it did. I was extremely grateful because my three previous kidney stones either had to be blasted with shock waves or removed via a surgical procedure that’s the medical equivalent of Roto Rooter.

On a follow-up visit, the good doctor gave me a list of foods and beverages that I should or shouldn’t eat and drink. Among the bad things are peanut butter, which I love, and beer, which I love even more. Also on the bad list are — you can’t make this up — kidney beans.

Dr. Kim informed me that I have another stone in my right kidney, but that it’s small and should pass, too.

When I told him the tale of the tape, he said, “Shave your arms. You don’t want to get into another hairy situation.”

Copyright 2014 by Jerry Zezima

Thursday, December 4, 2014

"Christmas Letter 2014"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
Since I am in the holiday spirit (and, having just consumed a mug of hot toddy, a glass of eggnog and a nip of cheer, the holiday spirits are in me), I have once again decided to follow in that great tradition of boring everyone silly by writing a Christmas letter.

That is why I am pleased as punch (which I also drank) to present the following chronicle of the Zezima family, which includes Jerry, the patriarch; Sue, the matriarch; Katie and Lauren, the childriarchs; Dave and Guillaume, the sons-in-lawiarch, and Chloe, the granddaughteriarch.

Dear friends:

It sure has been an exciting 2014 for the Zezimas!

The highlights of the year were two big birthdays: Jerry turned 60 and Chloe, who already is smarter and more mature than her Poppie, turned 1.

Jerry thinks this is the best time of life because, at 60, you can still do everything you have always done, but if there is something you don’t want to do, you can pull the age card. That’s why he finally hired a landscaper. Now he has time to do stuff that keeps him young, like playing with Chloe.

Since his mind (or what’s left of it) is perpetually immature, Jerry won Punderdome 3000, a pun contest in which he beat out 16 other and much younger contestants. The champ received a fondue maker, which he gave to Sue because, as he explained, “It was the least I could fondue.”

And even though his body is perpetually pathetic, Jerry tried to recapture his youth by playing baseball, which he hadn’t done in half a century, and golf, which he had never done. After being put on steroids for a throat infection, Jerry went to a batting cage to see if he could become a home run king like other steroid users. Unfortunately, mighty Jerry struck out. Then he went to a golf course to take a lesson on the driving range. His efforts were, not surprisingly, below par, meaning he will never win the Masters. “If you want a green jacket,” the club pro told him, “you may have to buy it yourself.”

Jerry had a brush with the law when he received an $80 ticket after being caught by a red-light camera making an illegal right turn. He fought the charge in traffic court but lost because, the judge said, he didn’t come to “a full and complete stop.” Those are the brakes.

Jerry managed to avoid further trouble when he drove Lauren and Chloe to Washington, D.C., to spend the weekend with Katie and Dave. Sue flew down the next day. Katie and Dave, who earlier this year moved to the nation’s capital, also work there, Katie as a White House correspondent for The Washington Post, Dave as an editor for the American Public Media radio show “Marketplace.”

Washington was the site of the annual conference of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Jerry, incredibly, was elected president. He didn’t meet the U.S. president or any members of Congress, who were busy with the important work of fighting with each other, proving that they, too, are less mature than Chloe. But Jerry did get a ride around town from a cabbie who was on his first day on the job. The cabbie got lost, but at least he didn’t get a ticket.

After returning home, Jerry got a new car because his old car was 10 years old and had 206,000 miles on it. The car also needed new rear brakes (he should have used that as an excuse in traffic court) and didn’t have air-conditioning for the last three years. Jerry is so excited about the air-conditioning in his new car that he turns it on every day, even when the temperature dips below freezing, just to make up for lost time.

On the health front, Jerry had a kidney stone. Over the years, he has had to number them, like Super Bowls. The latest one was Kidney Stone IV. This, too, did pass.

The greatest medical challenge was faced by Guillaume, who at 32 was diagnosed with lymphoma. All through his treatment, he has shown dignity, grace, determination, courage and good humor. So has Lauren, who has undertaken the often uncredited but important role of caregiver with boundless love and energy. It’s uncommon for a young person to have this disease, but awareness, research and financial support can help find a cure. And for Guillaume, the outlook is great: The latest scan was clean. No signs of cancer. It’s a true blessing at a blessed time of year.

That’s the news from here. Merry Christmas with love, laughter and gratitude from the Zezimas.
Copyright 2014 by Jerry Zezima