Friday, April 29, 2016


 A friend of mine, who’s in his 80s, emailed me the other day to tell me he’d just passed a kidney stone.

“I don’t know if women get kidney stones, too,” he said, “but if they do, I would think it would be easier and less painful for them to pass them, especially considering the male anatomy.”

I had to disagree with him. I remembered when a former boss of mine, Marge, had a kidney stone and said that up until then, she’d thought labor pains were the worst agony she ever would be forced to endure.

My friend’s email also made me recall the time my husband suffered with kidney- stone pain…and tried to hide it from me.

It all began one day when I happened to notice he was walking slightly bent over.

“Backache,” he explained when I questioned him about it. “I must have pulled a muscle or something.”

As the days passed, however, his posture grew even worse. “Maybe you should see a doctor,” I suggested, even though I knew I might as well have been suggesting it to my dog.

“No, I’m fine,” he said, forcing a smile. “It’s nothing…really!”

The next night, I woke up to discover that my husband wasn’t in bed.  The house was completely dark and silent.  I was just about to climb out of bed to search for him when I suddenly heard moaning coming from the living room.

“Honey, is that you?” I called out. “Are you OK?”

“I’m fine!” my husband’s voice called back, almost too brightly. “I just couldn’t sleep and didn’t want to disturb you with all of my tossing and turning.  You go back to sleep. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

“But I thought I heard moaning,” I protested.

“Moaning?  Don’t be silly!” He forced a laugh. “It was probably just a burp or something!”

Sighing, I rolled over, closed my eyes and tried to get back to sleep.  Just as I was about to doze off, I heard a loud groan, followed by another.  I sat up. 

“Shhhh!” I could hear my husband’s hushed voice scolding himself out in the living room. “Stop groaning or Sally will hear you and make you go to the doctor’s!  Why are you groaning anyway, you idiot?  It’s not helping anything!”  No sooner had he finished saying the words, did a really loud groan slip out.

“Are you sure you’re OK?” I called out to him.  Not waiting for an answer, I got up and tiptoed out to the living room.  There, kneeling on the floor with his arms wrapped around the footrest of his recliner and his head resting on the seat, was my sweat-covered husband.

“I’m fine, honey!” he was shouting, still thinking I was in the bedroom. “You go back to sleep now!”

I cleared my throat.  “Having a secret affair with your recliner?” I asked.

His head snapped up, his eyes as wide as saucers. “Uh, this must look pretty weird, huh?” he said. He wiped his damp forehead with the back of his hand.

“That does it!  I’m calling the ambulance!” I headed for the phone.

“No!” he cried, struggling to his feet.  He tried to block my path, but took only one step and doubled over in pain.  He sank to his knees and hugged the recliner again. “This will go away,” he said, his voice muffled by the seat cushion. “I’ll be fine by tomorrow.  No need for a hospital.”

A half-hour later (only because I threatened to divorce him) he was in the emergency room.  A half-hour after that, he was admitted to the hospital.

A dozen or so tests and x-rays later, the doctor entered the room. “I have bad news and good news,” he said. “The bad news, Mr. Breslin, is you have a kidney stone that’s causing nearly a complete blockage.  The good news is I’m pretty sure we can go up and get it rather than have to make an incision.”

“Up? Up where?” my husband squeaked. “And with what?”

I wish I’d have had my camera with me to take a photo of his expression when the doctor answered him. 

My husband did just fine with the procedure and later was presented with the stone, which was smaller than a pea but had sharp, jagged edges. I was amazed that something so small could cause so much pain.

While my husband was recovering at home afterwards, I made the mistake of mentioning Marge’s comment about kidney-stone pain being worse than labor pains. Little did I know my words would create a monster.

For weeks after his stone was removed, my husband bragged about how he’d suffered for nearly two weeks with excruciating kidney pain before going to the hospital. And even then, he said, he wouldn’t have given in if I hadn’t forced him to.  According to him, his kidney pain, especially for two solid weeks, was much more severe than any pain a woman in labor ever would have to tolerate.

“Women are always saying that if men had to give birth, there wouldn’t be any kids, because men are such sissies about pain,” he said. “Well, I just single-handedly proved that theory wrong, didn’t I!”

By then, I’d had just about enough of “Super Kidney-Stone Man” and his endless bragging.

“You know that little stone they removed from you?” I asked him. “Well, imagine that it weighed about seven pounds and was 20 inches long when they dragged it out of you.  That’s what labor feels like!”

Funny, but after that, he never mentioned it again.

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