Monday, July 16, 2012

The Girl With the Kidney Stone

So I see I haven't blogged since April. In case you were sitting around wondering why, it's because I never set down my actual novel projects long enough to blog, or bathe my children, or call my mother, or any of those things normal people are expected to do. I really am the stereotype of the Obsessive Writer. I have never seen an episode of Mad Men or even Modern Family, despite very much wanting to, because I Don't Have Time. If I go to bed before 3 A.M., I consider it "an early night." I have three novel projects going at a time, and I wake up in the morning thinking about where I'm going to go with that scene today. I don't do these things to be cute and affected. I often wish my brain would fricking slow down.

As some of you know, I have a day job as a Children's Ministry Coordinator for a church here in my town. I love that job, and I'm devoted to it. The week before last I was gearing up to host Vacation Bible School (VBS), my church's biggest community outreach of the year and a major part of my job. It's a week long, for three hours every evening. This takes months of planning and intense coordination, as well as a ton of volunteer help. This would be an incredibly bad week for anything to go wrong-- for example a widespread, multi-day power outage, or a tree falling on the Craft Leader's parents' house, or, say, a sudden guerrilla attack by kidney stones.

In case you didn't already guess, I got all three.

After a four-day outage here at chez Coleman, I leaped to finish the printing and Internetting and shopping for VBS once the lights came back on and the City of Bowie scraped all the sixty-year-old maples off the main roads. The highway to Annapolis was literally closed due to melting-- the heat wave was that bad-- but hey, I didn't need anything in Annapolis anyway. The Craft Leader's parents had good insurance and escaped tragedy, and so now, like some kind of twisted Super Mario Brothers game, all I needed to do was dodge the medical emergency. And just like in the original Nintendo game, I found myself running straight off the cliff.

I got through Monday just fine. I was super-dehydrated by the end of the night and got myself a ginormous soda at 7-Eleven on the way home. On Tuesday morning I woke up thinking (as always) what I was going to write that day, and as soon as I stepped out of bed I felt, as my husband would quote, a disturbance in the force, as if a million voices suddenly cried out in terror. That day I managed the whole escalating catastrophe with over-the-counter pain meds; frankly, I was assuming this was a really kick-ass case of run-of-the-mill cramps. By evening, though, I was starting to suspect-- in all bewilderment-- that this could be a kidney stone. I had heard tell of such things, and my symptoms seemed awfully suspicious; after all, I'd never actually thrown up from pain before, except during labor with a daughter who shall remain nameless. Still, the show must go on, and so I ran VBS as scheduled. With a little help from my friends.

As dawn broke on Wednesday, while I paced the floor of my bedroom, I calmly texted my husband-- who was close to the end of his shift at the firehouse-- and told him that as soon as he got home he was taking me to the ER. Now, I had not been treated in an ER since I was three years old and decided to play "Scuba Diver" by jumping off the coffee table with the wooden base of one of those Fisher-Price ring-stacker toys in my mouth. I am incredibly healthy. Superwoman healthy. I can say that out loud now because it isn't tempting the Gods. They've already gotten the last laugh.

In the ER (no line!), they gave me a morphine drip and a CAT scan that determined that I was not, in fact, paranoid or insane, and I really did have a rock lodged in my left kidney. But it was only a LITTLE one, and it should be out in no time. They sent me home with four different medications, I took a long nap, and got up in time to run VBS again.

I limped through Thursday and Friday, finishing out the week of a very successful and hard-won Vacation Bible School. Still, no stone had popped out. The weekend crawled by; I called my doctor after-hours and coaxed him into giving me a prescription for a muscle relaxant so I'd be able to get up after a couple hours' sleep without collapsing into a puddle of misery, and that improved things by a notch. I felt like I was 85 years old. All of this was absolutely foreign to me: the charts to help me remember what drugs I'd taken and when, the medicated haze, the hot showers at 2 in the morning, the calls to the hospital's Registered Nurse Hotline and the naps and the humiliating conversations about my urinary tract and shuffling slowly around the house in my pajamas. And warning my kids to hug me gently. And missing things, like my niece's birthday party, because I was too sick to go. That sucked. It all sucks. It sucks in epic fashion.

My husband was awesome through all of this, my parents and friends sympathetic, and I felt like it was just a matter of time until the damn stone worked its way out and everything could get back to normal. Meanwhile, as far as my novel was concerned-- and for those with sensitive ears, I'm going to use a technical term here-- I wasn't writing shit. Usually I hit a thousand words a day, sometimes three thousand. In the past week I've managed to squeeze in a thousand words, and they weren't even on the project that's due in October. Apparently I'm on sabbatical; won't my editor love hearing that! But creativity is impossible under these conditions. I can work my day job just fine-- that's been proven-- but there's no way my mind can go on flights of fancy when it can only think one four-letter word, and that word is PAIN.

Monday rolled around, and I went in to see my primary care doc. I figured this was a technicality, since the stone is still stuck in there and all I really needed were more pain meds. Imagine my surprise when he whipped out my CAT scan and told me, oh no, this stone isn't going anywhere without SURGERY, and by the way you have another one up there about the size of the Minotaur and to get that out you need to have a completely different procedure done.

Ya know, back around my birthday at the end of June I called my dear friend Laura and joked that now that I'm 36, I'm in the second half of my life. I kept working that riff for the remainder of the conversation, while she teased me for being morbid. It was meant to be a joke, and it seems a lot less funny now that I'm facing the first medical crisis of my life-- something I can't ignore or wait to heal on its own, because it won't. Thankfully it IS something treatable, but I keep thinking about that maudlin country song I like so much-- "Live Like You Were Dying"-- where he sings about how "the moment came that stopped me on a dime/ And I spent most of the next days looking at the X-rays". Yes, I'm sedentary and drink a ton of Coke Zero, but a lot of people do that and they don't all get kidney stones. I have no family history of this, and it's not like I had a hunch that something might be wrong. It came completely out of left field. And now I'm crossing my fingers that I can still make it to the RWA conference where I'm speaking and signing books next week, and that I can hurry up and get back to the sweet overworked overscheduled NORMAL chaos of my life instead of this unpleasant substitute.

I'll just leave you with this one thought: a while ago a friend posted on Facebook the quote, "Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness." I don't know exactly what caused this, but I deserve to take a hit in the Lifestyle department. I'm too old to think sitting still won't come back to haunt me soon enough. Wish me luck.