JedidiahExactly 40 years ago, I was involved in a BBC production of TEN WHO DARED.  The episode I was in was titled JEDEDIAH SMITH.

Most of the cast were to portray mountain men in 1836 on our way to California.  To toughen us up, we let our hair grow long, didn’t bathe, and didn’t cut our nails.

Just before filming began, the producers stranded us out in the desert and let us find our own way back to the motel in St. George Utah.  About half of the “mountain men” got ornery and complained a great deal as we walked along.  I took in the sights and admired the secrets of the desert.

For some of the men, it was exhausting.  HOWEVER, when we got back to the motel, it was amazing to see how resilient the human mind and body can be.  After a jump in the swimming pool and/or shower, the complainers piled into a van and headed immediately for Las Vegas.

I tell you that story so I can tell you this one.

Just before I was scheduled for my third lithotripsy on February 10th, I had to cancel due to a very bad cold.  A lithotripsy is a procedure where sound waves are aimed at a kidney stone in an effort to smash it into much smaller pieces.

A new date was set – June 5.

SoundwavesJune 5th was a bad day for me.  ONE HOUR before my lithotripsy, the anesthesiologist cancelled.  He or she questioned if my heart could withstand the effort.

For the next few days, I was a cloud of dust, running here, there, and everywhere to clear the path for the operation.  At the end of my “to do list” was a Nuclear Stress Test given by my cardiologist.

The stress test was modified for my age and condition, but at the end, I was given a “pass.”  Test “normal.” I hand-carried the results of the stress test to the clinic where the operation was to take place.  My lithotripsy was now scheduled for June 18.

My ex had driven 90 miles round trip to drive me to the operation that had been cancelled, but this time, I found a kindly neighbor to drive – just in case.  Her name is Kay.

The clinic was going to call me the day before the operation to give me the normal instructions, but instead, it threw another roadblock in my way.  The report from the cardiologist was not good enough.  A hand-signed note was now demanded.

The cardiologist was either in conference or with patients, and could not be reached.  The day was rapidly coming to a close, and the clinic didn’t know if the signed note was going to make it by 5 PM.   This would mean yet another cancellation.

I had a severe panic attack.  If I had heard one more piece of bad news, it could have turned into a complete mental breakdown.

Like my companions trudging through the desert to make that movie 40 years ago, the mental stress was wringing me out physically.

Just before the deadline, the magical call came from the clinic.  The note from my cardiologist had reached the anesthesiologist.  The operation was a “go” for 1:45 PM the next day.

Of course, on the next day, the doctor was running behind schedule.  Another operation was scheduled in front of mine.  I didn’t leave for the operating room until just after 3 PM.  Thank goodness I had Kay to talk to.  The minutes flew by, and my mouth never stopped.

Because of the delay the day before, I was prepared to give the anesthesiologist a cold stare when we first met.  Instead, a kindly lady showed up “great with child.”  This will be her third baby.  “We’re going to induce on Monday,” she told us.  How could I be mean to her.  All my anxiety toward her melted away.  “Thank you for getting that note,” she said.  My heart was totally softened.

When I woke up, I was grateful beyond words that  I did not have a catheter and a collection bag strapped to my leg.  More good news – the doctor had NOT inserted a stent from my kidney to my bladder to widen the channel for the pieces of kidney stone to pass easier.  He had pulverized that 10mm stone into sand!

I was happy for the first time in weeks.  Just like the stranded actors finding the swimming pool.

The clinic expected me to go home and rest, but I took Kay to a buffet diner instead.  Of course, I drove.  Yes, we signed a paper saying she was my designated driver, but what can I tell you.

SoundwaveSandThose first few hours, my urine wasn’t urine.  It was thick, black blood – like molasses.  I’m supposed to collect the particles of the kidney stone, but they are so fine, most of them have gone “bye-bye.”

The next day, I took ONE pain pill.  My throat was as raw as a peeled tomato from my intubation, and I hoped the drug would numb the pain.  It made me sick to my stomach instead.

It has been almost 48 hours, and my urine is still dark red.  My spirits are much better – it was impossible for me to concentrate on writing this entry yesterday – and I will definitely go for a walk today.

Now, I go to work forming the next stone.



3 thoughts on “Out of the desert

  1. I’m glad you’re doing well! Great story with a great perspective. Many times in my life I’ve had to scale very difficult physical, emotional or mental barriers. I think my upbringing, along with its stories of pioneers, soldiers, nurses, explorers, inventors, and just the common man overcoming great odds, is what prepared me for my adult life. But just like your story says, we don’t need to look at extreme examples of endurance to understand just how universal the human condition is. We all bear our own burdens. How we choose to carry them is what is up to us.


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