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Turning a Stone into a Gem

The motivational potential of a kidney stone

Nothing is so motivating to get you up and doing what needs to be done than a kidney stone.  It focuses your attention.  It consumes your very existence.

The pain, in some cases, has been described as worse than childbirth.  Typically, lower back pain, the inability to find comfort in any position – vertical or horizontal – and a certain, ahem, burning sensation are the symptoms.  As a result, you can’t sleep, engage in normal activity, work up much of an appetite or even sit up without the constant nag of extreme discomfort.

Now I recognize that kidney stones aren’t necessarily fodder for cocktail party conversation.  But upon looking into the statistics, about twelve percent of men and seven percent of women in the U.S. will experience a kidney stone at least once in their lifetime.  This is about the same number as the population of California, Pennsylvania and Georgia combined.  Georgia is right smack-dab in the middle of what medical professionals call “The Stone Belt.”  The combo of readily available sugary cola, sweet tea and heat-related dehydration is a trigger for kidney stones.  Researchers don’t have any “one-size-fits-all” explanation for the cause of these insidious little buggers, but they all agree on one thing – when you have one, there’s not a lot you can do but wait.  Pain meds – yes; maybe an ultrasound or x-ray in extreme cases, to determine if the stone might be large enough to require more aggressive treatment.  But for the run-of-the-mill aggregation of calcium oxalate, the best you can do is hang on until it passes.  And while I’m spouting these kinds of “factoids,” let me be clear about one thing – I am not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV and if you are suffering from any kind of ailment that sounds remotely similar to what I’ve described, please see your doctor immediately!

Why, one might ask, do I know all of this, and why is it so important to me just now?

Because I’ve just discovered from first-hand experience that a kidney stone will prompt you to take measures no ordinarily sane person would pursue.  It focuses you entire being on one single objective:  to get past it, or to be more precise, to get it to pass.  (Since this is the second go-round for me with these miniature cinder blocks, I’m following my physician’s advice to stay quiet, drink lots of fluids and suffer in silence for about 24 to 48 hours.) 

In my particular situation, the internet may or may not be my friend.  At the behest of unseen (and undocumented) home remedy experts, I’ve ingested a diabolical mixture of equal parts olive oil and lemon juice; I’ve consumed a full quart of cranberry juice; I’ve elevated my feet, my head, my middle.  I’ve laid flat on the floor, reclined on the couch, parked myself bolt-upright in a chair.  I’ve even tried the “bump” method, which requires one to drink a mild, warm salt water solution, wait 25 minutes and then “bump” your butt on a concrete object every 5 minutes until you have relief.  I did this in desperation the night before last – imagine a grown man in his pajamas at 3:30 a.m. sitting on his front stoop, alternately standing and crumpled over in pain, followed by a performance not unlike the imitation of riding horseback astride a very large trotter over very uneven terrain. 

Every five minutes. 

Fortunately, we don’t see much traffic on our street at that hour.

Such advice is worth every penny I paid for it.  I’m well into Day Two right now, and I think I might be getting delirious.  I’m not hallucinating (yet), but in my pain-addled state, I’ve begun to speculate on constructive uses for kidney stones (I’ll ignore the usual fifth-grader jokes that involve jewelry).  For example, for motivational purposes, perhaps each member of Congress could be issued a kidney stone.  It would focus their attention on doing what needs to be done, for sure.  Imagine a flurry of Congressional Activity for two full days.  Perhaps we could extend the same benefit to all elected officials, deserving in-laws, cranky co-workers and twenty-somethings who can’t find it in themselves to leave home.

 If nothing else, it would make those 24-to-48 hours seem to fly by...

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