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Getting Stoned

November 25, 2011 | by  |  Entertainment

I didn’t go to work on Friday because I was exhausted and too high to get out of bed. I had spent much of the previous night exploring pain thresholds and pharmaceuticals and wasn’t quite back to my usual self.

It all started on Thursday evening with an urge to pass water that wouldn’t go away. I ran to the can and back again, repeating as needed, with no relief. There was also some pressure and throbbing in the left side of my abdomen but would disappear as soon as I paid it  much notice like an indecisive stereo knob teasing the ear with barely perceptible volume.

I googled all sorts of things in classic hypochondriac fashion, from flu shot side effects to origins of stabbing pains to dying at 30, which led to a bit of a panic attack. Sanity eventually prevailed. On my next run to the bathroom I popped a pair of ibuprofen and tried to ignore the false excretion urges long enough to fall asleep.
I was down long enough to begin nodding off, enjoying the whirlwind of seemingly random imagery and voices that always floods my brain before a dream state, but then…

BAM! a lightning bolt slams into my left side, then rips south to my groin. I shoot up and contort into various yoga poses, grunt like a caged beast, howl like a beatnik, mash up existing curse words into fun new ones and run from room to room in a panic before letting momentum and gravity carry me into a wall and then guide me clumsily to the bathroom floor.

“He’s really white!” someone says.

“Are you OK? Why are you on the floor?”

“It’s nice down here,” I say, ever the smart-ass.

“OK, let’s get him to the hospital.”

My housemates establish consensus in the hallway and I eavesdrop on a plan to fetch me pants and shoes.

“Don’t come in here!” I yell and haul myself up into a passable sitting position on the toilet in time to avoid spilling various liquids on the tiles in a painful situation gastroenterologist and author Anish Sheth might call a Number Three. Minutes pass, or maybe hours and I’m eventually led into a pair of pants and then the backseat of a car.

The ride to the hospital is quick, as is the run through triage and admitting.

“I just need whoever Lukasz Brocki is,” says a head poking out of a set of double doors.

“Do you smoke, drink, do drugs everyday?” the admitting nurse asks when I follow her in and slump down in a chair.

“No.”

“Do you have a safe place at home?”

“Yes.”

She asks what’s wrong and I explain. Soon I’ve got a striped blue bracelet on my arm and she hands me a stack of papers like a relay baton, along with directions to follow the green line on the floor to Treatment. I read on one of the forms that I’ve been categorized as “no risk” for violence and wonder if she was entirely correct in that assessment as another pain shoots down my side. When I arrive at my destination–is this where I’m going to die?!–a short mustachioed man asks me for a pee sample, and after I comply, he runs off with it, abandoning me in an empty treatment room. My entire left side is still throbbing, but it’s a dull, manageable pain as I count minutes on the wall clock. Fifteen. Thirty. Forty. Mostly I’m now bored as hell, so I snoop around the cupboards and drawers, but it’s all latex gloves and gyno tools and tongue depressors, so I lie down on the shitty little bed and stare at the ceiling, meditating on the possibilities.

I wonder what they’re looking for in my urine. If they’re after caffeine, nicotine or alcohol, I’m busted.

“There’s blood in your urine,” a voice says.

I open my eyes to find a young doctor with short spiky hair. He says he wants to check me for hernias. I pull down my pants and he pokes around my gut and groin a bit while making me cough until he feels whatever it is he’s after. Based on my story, he says, it was likely a kidney stone ripping up my ureters on its journey out the old pee hole. And based on the blood in the sample, he says, I probably passed it just before leaving the house to come here.

“Why does this happen,” I mumble.

“Some cases, we don’t know. Others are genetic. Or you could simply not be drinking enough water,” he says with a grin. “Apparently it’s the pain equivalent of giving birth.”

I nod politely and silently hate this happy man who has clearly never experienced either. Still, I feel he’s right on the fluid point; unless coffee, beer and vegetables count, I’m perpetually on the verge of dehydration.
He leaves, but I still have questions, so get back to Googling: it seems most stones appear in previously healthy individuals (what the hell do they mean, ‘previously’?) aged 30 to 50 and are four times as common in men as in women. Some are mere grains of sand, others the size of golf balls requiring surgical removal. I also feel a degree of schadenfreude at the story of some unlucky Hungarian man whose surgeon dug around his gut to remove this 2.5-pound beauty.

Finally another man in blue scrubs enters the room. It’s old Mustachio from before, this time bearing gifts of drugs. This is hydromorphone, he says, a potent morphine derivative. It’s supposed to help me get through the next 24 hours, during which I’m to find out whether any more delightful little crystallized dietary minerals will attempt an escape out the front gate. I suck one of the pills down and grin like a smoker clearing customs after a transcontinental flight. “Mustachio” also gives me a prescription for Flomax, a prostate medicine he says helps loosen up the ureter muscles.

“Will these make me piss my pants?” I ask and we share a laugh, but I don’t hear a no.

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