Thursday, February 10, 2011

Not So Smooth Move

A fellow in our community just died at 102. A friend of mine asked him a few years ago what the greatest invention was that he had seen in the past 100 years. It wasn't the airplane, automobile, cell phone, computer, space shuttle, YankATank, i phone, or tv.

He testified with all sincerity that it was toilet paper. Which kinda brings me in a roundabout way to my next subject...

The last several days of moving Meg and Jake have brought back memories from years ago when I ended up with what I thought were a couple of terminal illnesses.

I know, I know! I vowed earlier that I would put these stories on the back burner for a few decades but then I realized that the experiences, remedies and cures I had gleaned from these near-death close calls could possibly benefit the entire family of man. Besides, like the old song says, When You're Hot, You're Hot!

I promise that I will get back to normal stuff after this post.

Decades ago, I developed a pain in my side that became nigh unbearable. I spent the entire night on the floor, unable to lie down, let alone sleep. It was exhausting and excruciating. At least I was already on my knees for my nighttime prayers.

The next day, Michele ambulatoried me to the hospital. They probed, x-rayed and did all the tests they thought I could afford but even after all my money was gone, they still hadn't determined the culprit that had incapacitated me. The emergency room doctor did a little research in his medical book, discovered I had insurance and suddenly prognosticated that I had a kidney stone and was still a source of income. I was immediately checked into the hospital.

I spent the next several days under medication and more tests. They fed me nothing but liquids and a watery broth through the entire stay. I guess they were thinking that if they scrimped on my food budget, they would have more of a net profit to show while I was under their care.

I was starving. I must admit I started spending less time dealing with the kidney stone pains because I was so hungry. In retrospect, they never subsided, the hunger pangs just overrode them. The nurse came in on the third day and asked me how I was feeling. Under the covers I pressed one hand hard against my stomach so it didn’t feel so empty and the other hand tightly gripped my side so as to stifle the stone pain. I was then able to smile.

“I feel much better!” I happily fibbed through gritted teeth. Whatever it took to get out of this sterile Gulag and chow down on some vittles, I was up for. The nurse stated that she had just witnessed a modern-day miracle and wrote a glowing report for the doc.

The doctor/miracle worker confidently strode in a few minutes later and said they were going to release me. He appeared to be very happy after reading his nurses accolades. He then produced a paper outlining the things that I should avoid at all costs, namely greasy and fatty foods. He also had a master menu of things listed that I could drink and eat. This master menu consisted of two items, Water and Ice. I assured him I would avoid the multitude of forbidden foods found on the first list so he signed my release papers.

My wife arrived to pick me up. They carted me out in a wheelchair and I gingerly eased myself into the car. In addition to the pain of my tender kidney-stoned side panel, I was in the throes of starvation. I instructed my wife, in no uncertain terms and over her vehement objections, to drive me Code 3 (screeching tires, red lights and siren) to Roy’s Chuck Wagon.

We spent the next hour feasting on fried chicken, ham, potatoes and gravy and all other accouterments available in a respectable western smorgasbord buffet. The pains left. I'm now of the opinion the grease dissolved the stones, or at least provided a little lubrication so they could pass on their merry way a bit easier. The pains never returned. I'm thinking greasy and fatty foods were the cure, not the culprit.

The doctor turned out not to be the miracle worker. Roy of Roy's Chuck Wagon was the real hero.

Another hero of mine is my personal dentist Dr. Lancelot who doubles as my nephew. Here he is shown making a house call to extract some barbecued chicken that didn't quite make it past my right lower molars. I think I picked Chicken Little up and compacted him into the pearly whites while at Roy's.

My own personal dentist, what a luxury! The only complaint I have is the way he groans and balks when I tell him I'm ready to be pampered with a good flossing, brushing, dome wax and ear/nose hair shampoo.

Several years after the kidney stone experience, I bought tickets to go to Spokane with my wife and relatives to see Styx and REO Speedwagon, two bands that were popular in the 70’s and 80’s. In the days leading up to the concert, I had stayed very focused on delivering propane and setting tanks. However, I noticed a slight pain in my abdomen that increased over time until it was very painful to work. It was a little like the kidney stone pain I’d had years before but was in a slightly different spot.

By the time the day of the concert rolled around, I was in agony. I couldn’t stand to wear anything that put pressure on my abdomen. Even underwear was unbearable. I could hardly walk. I was torn whether to try to make the concert or not. However, I have always hated to be a party pooper so I committed to make the 120-mile trip to Spokane.

The only apparel I could stand to wear was some very loose fitting sweat pants. I had to hike them up so there was no pressure whatsoever on my lower tummy. Instead of heading out for a music fest, I felt like I should be heading for an operating room. Even though I was dressed like a jock with the sweat pants and tennis shoes, I think at least some of the visual athletic effect was lost for onlookers. This was due to the fact that I had to wear the sweats hiked up to just below my nipple line in order to keep the tie cord from putting any undue pressure on my painful abdomen.

I remember my wife commenting several times that I should pull my pants down a bit as it looked like I was preparing for a flood or being raised in a helicopter sling. I was wearing ultra high-water dark sweat pants with the bottoms of the legs 2 or 3 inches above the top of my white tube socks. I must say that through that entire evening, I had no concerns whatsoever regarding my outward appearance.

We arrived in Spokane early. Everyone wanted to grab a bite to eat except me. But like the sport I am, I dealt with the pain and hobbled into the restaurant with my kin. I remember my brother-in-law Todd had a huge, horrific looking boil on his lip. I felt sorry for him but was absolutely certain he was in less pain. He was ugly outside. I was ugly inside.

The concert was probably good but all I remember was trying to get comfortable in my seat for 3 hours. I was never successful. The strongest memory I have of the evening was afterward trying to walk back to the car in the parking lot. I was bent over and hanging on to the coat tails of my brother Brent since it was too painful to look up. I limped with both legs every step of the way. I thought we'd never get to the car. We should have parked in the handicapped zone that night, I would have gladly paid the ticket.

Something was definitely haywire in my innards.

It so happened that the next morning we had been planning to head for Utah to visit Michele’s parents. I had a terrible night and told her the next morning that there was no way I could make the trip. We decided that she and the kids would drive down without me. However, just before they left, I came up with a solution.

I would ride into town with them. We would visit a clinic, find a solution, get something for my pain and then make the long trip to Utah. We pulled out the back seat in the Suburban and I lay down in the most comfortable position I could find with my head resting on the spare tire. All the kids were crammed up front with Michele.

Arriving at the clinic, we found they were booked up and couldn’t see me for 3 hours. We called several other clinics and got the same story. It was late in the morning and there was still over 600 miles to cover before the Promised Land appeared. A very long drive was shaping up for one in the shape such as I. I decided to take one for the team and told Michele to drive on.

Several times on this most memorable trip, Michele would call out “Who needs to use the restroom?” I wanted to join in with the kids chanting “I do! I do!” I felt kinda like I really did need to but also knew the pain of my as yet unknown malady would prevent success. So I stayed in the least painful fetal position I could find while screaming in agony every time Michele ran over a piece of gravel or center-line stripe.

I bounced around in the back of the Sub all the way to Utah, wondering if I could continue taking the abuse. As we passed through Salt Lake, we called Mitch’s folks in Orem and got the number of a clinic (I call Michele Mitch when I’m feeling particularly needy.) The clinic told me they closed at 10 pm. I told Mitch to hit the gas and stay off the brakes.

We pulled into the clinic parking lot at 9:58 pm. I clinched my teeth and found my way inside. I was dying. The nurse handed me a clipboard with an introductory multiple choice quiz with several hundred questions concerning exotic diseases I wouldn't have been caught dead with. I'm not a fan of these questionnaires and I sure wasn't in the mood to take a written test on this particular evening. I handed the quiz to Michele and then bent back over the counter. The doctor came out and after glancing at my pale face, took me in and immediately ordered a series of x-rays to try to find out what insidious monster had attacked my system. A few minutes after the x-rays, he walked back in the room while hiding a smirk and asked me when I had last had a bm?

I was a little taken aback. At that particular time in my life, I hadn't been keeping a written record of such incidents and didn't think I had a problem in that neck of the lower woods. In my mind, I thought I had been fairly regular. I was therefore inclined to think it was a waste to talk about my waste when my waist was so pained. I was sure I had appendicitis or stones or cancer…something a little more glamorous than a non-bm.

He got this know-it-all look on his face. Pulling out an x-ray, he clipped it on the lighted panel. My pain lessened as I gazed at the board. I gravitated from insolence to embarrassment and finally, at last knowing what the problem was, I became, you might say, basically relieved. Well, not really relieved.

My intestines looked like they were packed to the max. I could tell I had missed an important opportunity about a week earlier. He handed me a bottle of laxatives and bid me goodbye. He said something like "Adios, mucho pacto' senor".

My wife was incredulous, mad and laughing at me for the next few days.Incredulous that I hadn't known what my body was up to. Mad that I had been such a baby, made her drive all the way to Utah, and spend a few hundred just so a doctor could tell me to hit the head. Laughing because..., well, I don't know for sure why she was laughing.

Anyway, she shifted back and forth between these emotions for a good week. That's about how long it took me to get the pipes back in shape.

I have since found that if I start approaching the threshold of irregularity, it pays to cinch the belt up a couple of notches past the comfort zone. This, coupled with two or three hundred sit-ups usually breaks up and gets rid of the problem.

The longer you live, the more you learn about yourself.


Lance said...

This story doesn't really surprise me because I've never seen you as a regular guy.

Glad I'm your dentist and not your gastroenterologist.

Chelsea said...

Amen Lance. Gross again Ben, but yes funny.

Mary said...

It's Heck getting old, Ben. I laughed until I cried. Thanks for posting even if it was TMI (too much Information).

ginny said...

I'm feeling more empathy for Michele every day.

Brian and Jennifer said...

My 4-year-old keeps asking, "Mom, what do you keep laughing at?" as I'm sitting here reading your posts!

Krista said...

We laughed so hard we cried too Ben. Oh, Michele, some days do you wish you would have dated longer before making such an important decision? J/K Ben. You are hilarious.