Three weeks ago Jerry and I were walking the golf course on an absolutely beautiful day, hitting the ball with occasional shots that were moderately pleasing ( is any golfer ever totally pleased?) and feeling very blessed. Several days later I was back in the emergency room. This time it was not Afib but rather hours of throwing up and severe abdominal pain. The diagnosis was a left kidney that was not functioning properly. Am now going through various tests and procedures to learn the cause of the kidney malfunction. Am truly fortunate to have my wonderful husband and our incredible family to support me on this journey.

The sudden pain from the kidney malfunction was pretty over the top. It has caused me to do a lot of reflecting on pain – the why of pain, the meaning of pain. Growing up Catholic I was always taught the spiritual value of pain. Pain can be turned into a powerful prayer when you offer it up for some person or purpose. In the 1980’s on a skiing trip to Colorado with Jerry, my brothers and my sister-in- law, I had a bad skiing accident resulting in a dislocated shoulder, a broken bone and a torn rotator cuff. As I was being transported down the slope, I can still clearly picture my priestly brother suddenly appearing at the side of the ski patrol gurney, flashing me his special smile and with a tad of sheepishness reminding me to offer up the pain and saying I could offer it up for him if I wanted. For me giving spiritual purpose to pain absolutely helps.

I found the kidney pain to be fierce and not particularly helped by the morphine I was given in the ER. Relief finally came when I focused on what to do with the pain – who or what should I offer it up for. As the ER staff moved in and out performing various functions and not really requiring much of a response from me, I was able to distract myself by focusing on the value of my pain and what to do with it. When I finally settled on the petition that each of our nineteen grandchildren find the right life partner, I knew I had a winner. Finding meaning in the pain I was able to relax and perhaps finally give the morphine a chance to work.

One of the tests ordered for me was a CAT scan with iodine dye. Years ago I had an allergic reaction to iodine. This time as a precaution, I was put on massive doses of prednisone and benadryl – starting 14 hours before the test. All went well except the technician forgot to close off the port to the newly installed external drainage bag from my left kidney – the dye went right into the external bag thereby requiring a second infusion of dye – this time with the port appropriately closed. Though the test now worked it was followed by a full body skin allergic reaction which the doctor attributed to getting a second dose of the dye. I felt like what could go wrong was going wrong.

Last Friday our son Jerry drove down from New Jersey for a visit – 28 hours of a very special visit : working on crossword puzzles, guitar playing and singing, conversation when we felt like it. And then our local families came with dinner – such yumminess. Son Jim manned the grill, granddaughter Lilly – just back from Europe – fixed two of the dishes – a potato salad that was her own recipe and a blueberry tart to die for. It was all so easy as each family took care of the dinner prep and the clean up.

Wednesday I had an outpatient procedure with Interventional Radiology. The external port from the left kidney with accompanying tubing and bag was closed and replaced by a stint in the blocked portion of the junction between the kidney and my ureter. It was no big deal but if I have any complaint it was that they did not prepare me for the discomfort that accompanies this procedure and which can last for many days. I went into the hospital feeling good and left feeling not so good. Today on a followup with the urologist I learned that 80% of the folks who have the type of stint that was placed in me have considerable pain from the stint. It would have been nice to have been prepared for the fact that stint complications were normal – instead I worried that something was wrong.

And since I am in a griping mood a thing that really ticks me off is that the urologist’s office will not allow my husband to come to appointments with me. Jerry and I operate as a team and particularly when your health is out of kilter and your head may be a little foggy with all that is going on, it is important that your teammate be there so that no aspect of your treatment plan is missed. I understand that these are Covid times but Jerry and I are fully vaccinated and we wear our masks. Now Jerry and I are fortunate that our daughter Maura is a nurse practitioner and when she informed the urology office of her credentials they agreed that she could come with me. Made me feel sorry for contemporary patients of this doctor who are not blessed with their own family medical practitioner.

I fully understand that as one ages various parts of the body are prone to malfunctioning. If one could pick the desired season for body malfunctioning my choice would be winter – not the beautiful Spring weather of the last three weeks. Since my kidney started misbehaving any form of exercise has been ruled out. This would be easier to accept if the weather was not so inviting. In about an hour our daughter Meg will arrive from her home in Pennsylvania for an overnight visit – a love gift that is better than any medicine.

The urologists office just called. I am now officially on the hospital schedule for a procedure next Friday to examine the complex cyst in my left kidney. Is that the culprit? There are several possibilities but the cyst has got to be ruled out first.

Have been amusing myself by googling inspirational quotes – so many to choose from. One that particularly resonates with me is the old Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now”.

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