Wicked stone in my path

Having just finished recovering from an emergency appendectomy, I found myself this week back in the realm of medical professionals, this time thanks to a kidney stone.

Kidney stones happen when minerals (or some other material) accumulate in the kidney and form little spiky items that block the flow of liquids out of the body. They tend to be small — this particular stone was 3.2 millimeters — and cause an amount of pain far out of proportion to their size. I went to the ER when it began to feel like someone was kicking me with a steel-toed boot every five seconds.

Yesterday I underwent a procedure to get the stone out of me. Basically, the surgeon stuck a little tube up my ureter (YOW) and used a laser to blast the offending rock into smithereens.


Actual footage from the procedure.


Now I’m recovering at home. A heating pad eases the pain in my sore kidney; medications keep me dopey and sleepy.  The pill they gave me to deal with pee-pee pain has the odd side effect of turning all my bodily secretions orange. I have been turned into a wobbly Fanta dispenser.

The doc tells me that he can run tests to find out what I should eat/drink in smaller/greater proportions to prevent future renal misadventures. After two surgeries in a seven week period I find myself willing to live on water and saltines if that will keep me out of the hospital until further notice.



Sweet / Bitter

Roughly two weeks after the abrupt removal of my appendix, I am finally feeling somewhat close to normal. Just don’t ask me to bend over at the waist for the next month or so.

I have two persistent reminders of the surgery. First, there is the troika of little abdominal scars, spots where the surgeon cut into me and inserted laparoscopic tools. Secondly, my sense of taste has taken a turn for the weird.

Chocolate — my staff of life — now has an unpleasant after-taste. Sharp cheddar cheese, much the same. There’s a chemical bitterness to several foods that never had one before. Is this an after-effect of anaesthesia? Have I awakened to a new world in which fudge brownies promise pleasure but deliver only bitterness?

There are worse fates. No sane person would consume as much chocolate as I am wont to consume. This side effect could be the thing that finally allows me to lose weight!



Gut Feeling

I was working the night shift at the library when the pain became too intense and persistent to ignore. My colleague insisted I go see a doctor. It’s a good thing she did, because my appendix was just about ready to burst.


Twelve hours, one CT scan and several blood tests later, I was wheeled into an operating room full of mounted HTDVs and machines that go “ping.” I was knocked out with an intravenous drug before the anaesthesiologist put a tube down my throat. (I can still feel the soreness when I swallow.) Fiber-optic tubes were poked through my belly button and carbon dioxide was used to pump up my already-swollen abdomen, the better to let the doctors view my innards with a teeny-tiny camera. Using two more incisions, the surgeon cut the appendix loose and slipped it right out of me.

All very impressive and fascinating, but I’m glad they didn’t record the procedure. Oof.

I spent the next 36 hours in one of those bum-exposing hospital gowns. (There must be a reason we’re still using those, right?) All the hospital personnel were fantastically helpful and caring — which I appreciated, since my loved ones live far away, and I had to go through this solo.

Now I’m recovering at my apartment, waiting for the whomped-in-the-gut-with-a-shovel feeling to fade away. I’m moving with all the grace and style of a man twice my age. But I’m still moving!


Old-School Digital

The more my life and work comes to be ruled by abstractions, the more I feel the urge to make things with my hands.

Too much time online fills me with the queasiness of abstraction. You can’t touch the internet, you can’t taste it, you can’t smell it. The whole thing is just electrical impulses organized into patterns by workers who write algorithms that few of us will ever see and fewer can understand. A lot of my day is spent passing bits back and forth across buried wires and invisible energy waves. It makes a guy want to build a birdhouse or something — an object that has weight and goes thunk when it hits the floor.

Alanna Okun has long been using handicrafts to deal with modern-era angst, and you can read all about her crafting adventures in The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater.

boyfriend sweater


This is a snapshot of her life through the lens of knitting, needlepoint, et cetera. Okun derives real satisfaction from being to make and share physical things. It sure as hell beats sharing a link on Facebook!

I’d like to be more self-sufficient, more skilled, less reliant on service workers — more handy. So I’m thinking of getting back into basic woodworking (thanks to Nick Offerman), putting a small garden in the back yard, and learning new ways to prepare the veggies I hope to harvest from it. The less you need, the more you can be.