Daily Archives: June 4, 2010

How I lost a kidney I never really had. And other fun stories from the hospital

I’m back.

Maybe you missed me. Maybe you didn’t realize I was gone. I have all kinds of thoughts I want to share about the perfect game baseball controversy, and the National Spelling Bee (tonight on ABC!) and other stuff. But first things first.

I usually post every day, but I’ve been a little occupied the last few days over at Halifax Hospital here in Daytona Beach. I was a patient from late Tuesday night until Thursday night.

In the words of Inigo Montoya from “The Princess Bride,” “let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.” At about 1 a.m. Wednesday morning I had suffered four hours of severe abdominal pain before deciding, “I think I might want to get this checked out.”

So off I went, turns out I had an infection in my small intestine called an ileus, spent a whole lot of time running from hospital bed to the bathroom, and two days later, I’m feeling much better.

But that’s not the exciting part. The exciting part came at about 4 a.m. Wednesday morning. Julie and I are in the emergency room, waiting for the results of my CT scan, and I’m drugged out of my mind thanks to a wonderful IV pain medication drip called Dilaudid (oh my God is that stuff fantastic!).

Suddenly the ER doctor comes in. He asks if I’ve ever had a scan of my abdomen before. I say no. He says “Hmph.”

Then he tells me that, guess what? I only have one kidney.

“‘WHAT?” Julie and I both exclaim together. I do a quick mental inventory. You’re supposed to have two kidneys, I’m pretty sure. I’ve never had a kidney operation. Where the hell was my other kidney? Did I lose it on that fifth-grade field trip back in ’87? (I lost a lot of things on field trips in my day). And do I have an extra liver or something since I don’t have two kidneys?

Nope, he said. It’s just a genetic defect, happens in some people (it’s called solitary kidney, which, when you think about it, would be a great name for a rock band), and it poses no different health risks than if I had two kidneys.

This blew me away. I’m living my first 34 years thinking I had two kidneys, and then one day I find out I have only one.

Of course I had a million questions, which my new friend Dr. Schwartz answered. No, I don’t have to change my diet much, just eat some more apples and raw vegetables (Yippee.) Yes, my one kidney is healthy, though obviously if I ever have any issues with it it’s a little more dangerous than if I had two kidneys.

He said I just need to watch my contact sport participation (I guess my pro rugby career is over, dammit) and that’s pretty much it.

It was pretty mind-blowing to me, and quite amusing to my family. My sister suggested Julie get our marriage annulled under false pretense grounds (she thought she was marrying a two-kidney guy). My sister-in-law is delighted that I’ve given the family years of new jokes to make at holidays (“kidney bean salad, Michael?”).

And I wondered if I’m now qualified for handicapped parking (not so much).

So I’ve only got one kidney. Life goes on.

Couple more quick thoughts from my first hospital stay (knock on wood) in about 10 years:

– Hospital food has definitely gotten better. I couldn’t eat much of it, but what I did have was a whole lot more edible than I expected.

– Not that I had any doubt, but I re-discovered this week that I absolutely, positively, 100 percent married the right woman. My wife was unbelievable during my little crisis, showing a truly amazing level of concern and care. She’s the greatest thing ever.

– The things we say when we’re heavily, heavily drugged: I have absolutely no idea where this came from, but apparently at one point under the Dilaudid I turned to my wife and said, “I can’t wait to tell the Mets about my kidney.” And I’m a Yankees fan.

–Finally, I figured out how we can get prisoners at Guantanamo or elsewhere to talk: Give them that disgusting, vile drink they give you before a GI exam, I think it’s called GastroGrafin. Oh my God that was the worst-tasting thing I’ve ever had in my life; and the great thing was my delightful new friend Sheila (the lab tech) told me when I was halfway done with the cup she had given me “You’re almost ready for the second cup.”

Seriously, give this stuff to terrorists and I guarantee they’ll tell you everything you need to know.

The war on terror can be ended now, I’m telling you.