Daily Archives: July 16, 2019

10 years of Wide World of Stuff: The day, at age 35, I found out I was born with only one kidney

Continuing with our weeklong celebration of 10 years of Wide World of Stuff, I present by far the strangest thing I’ve ever found out about myself.

During a visit to the emergency room in June, 2010, when I was suffering from stomach pains and thought for sure I had kidney stones, I was given a stomach scan.

And then, drugged out of my mind to ease the pain, a hospital tech told me I only had one kidney.


Oh it was a scene, man. This was published on June 4, 2010, a couple of days later. Some of this, in hindsight, makes me cringe a little (early in 2010 I was still convinced I’d married the right woman. Turns out, I was wrong. Took me TWO marriages to get it absolutely right.)


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.

10 years of Wide World of Stuff: Today, a remembrance of John Hughes, whose movies shaped my childhood

As I continue a look back at the history of my blog on the 10th anniversary of its founding, I wanted today to re-post something (originally published on August  7, 2009) I wrote about the late, great movie director John Hughes, who for Generation X’ers like me was so incredibly instrumental in shaping the pop culture of our childhood.

He died far, far too young, but left us with so many wonderful memories, and films…

Every generation has voices who spoke to them. Older voices who were the soundtracks and the video reels of our childhood.

Sure. we romanticize them sometimes. But they’re as much a part of our growing up as Little League and Girl Scouts, camping trips and hallway lockers.

This summer, my generation lost its soundtrack in Michael Jackson. And now we’ve lost our filmmaker in the legendary John Hughes.

Generation X has suffered two body blows in the matter of months. I swear to God, if Madonna gets hit by a bus next week, I think I may lose it.

To say I loved John Hughes movies is like saying I kind of like chocolate chip cookies.

I’m certain I can quote three of his eight directed films, line for line, by heart. Just get me started on any scene from “The Breakfast Club” (“This is what you get in my house, when you spill paint in the garage!”), “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” (Didn’t you notice on the plane, when you started talking, eventually I started reading the vomit bag!”) or “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (“You’re Abe Froman? The sausage king of Chicago?”), and I’m gone for 20 minutes.

It’s incredible to me that in eight films, he left such a mark. He also wrote “Mr. Mom,” “Weird Science,” and “She’s Having a Baby,” three more that will always live in the 1980s canon.

Hughes’ brilliance was shown in so many ways. For one thing, he didn’t condescend to the viewers. He actually created real characters who talked like real high schoolers, and he painted a portrait of kids who we all could identify with.

Who didn’t know a Stef from “Pretty in Pink,” or “The Geek” in “Sixteen Candles”? This was the first time I felt like a movie was really about people who could’ve existed in my life.

Then there was the writing. Hughes’ scripts were always filled with laughter and fantastic one-liners, but they also contained so much heart.

That scene in “The Breakfast Club” where they’re all sitting around the library and Emilio Estevez is talking about taping Larry Lester’s buns together is so surprisingly moving. The ending of “Pretty in Pink” is so sweet, too, with Ducky finally blowing out his torch for Andie and encouraging her to go find Blane.

Hughes had the ability to infuse a scene with warmth and make you melt inside, but not go too far into mushy territory.

Thinking about him tonight, as I’m sure millions of people my age are, I’m blown away at how often I’ve quoted a Hughes movie, or watched one of them on cable (OK, so they’re on every 10 minutes somewhere, I still can’t skip past them), or referenced it in everyday life.

Say the name “Jake Ryan” and my wife’s eyes light up and a huge smile comes to her face. Was any 80s movie character more beloved by girls than he was? Mention Steve Martin and John Candy in the same sentence, and so many people think of “Those aren’t pillows!”

Literally every time my best childhood friends Andrew, Marc, Tracie and I are together, one of us will quote a line from “The Breakfast Club.” Every. Single. Time.

The Brat Pack shot to fame thanks to Hughes (if you have to ask who the Brat Pack are, I will feel really old), and he used the same actors over and over because they perfectly embodied what he wanted.

John Hughes didn’t win Oscars like Francis Ford Coppola, and he won’t go down as a cinematic genius like Oliver Stone or Steven Spielberg.

But if the true mark of a person is what kind of legacy you’ve left, and how many lives you affected, John Hughes was a giant.

So many of us laughed and cried because of what he created.

Cameron Frye will live in our hearts forever, as will John Bender and Del Griffith and all the rest.

R.I.P. John Hughes, and thanks for directing my childhood.