Hopefully, By the time you reach half a century, you pretty much have learned all you have to learn about your own body. It’s insulting when a young intern stands in front of you telling you about what your “illness” could be when you not only know what it is but have been to that rodeo several times. Most of them before this kid was in diapers.
I knew I was getting old when my doctor retired, a young kid walks in and my first thought was that he was selling something to raise money for the football team. He gave me his diagnosis, and I was kinder than I wanted to be. He patronized me because he was young and arrogant. The strained dance continues through the healing process.
“Well, let’s just try this,” he says. “I knew that it was futile, so I played the game for weeks before I got what I asked for, it worked and I moved on with my life.”
When I first moved to Minnesota a few years back, I anticipated coming to see such sights as the eagle sanctuary in Wabasha and perhaps taking my sons to the American Hockey Halls of Fame in both Eveleth and Warroad. And then of course, there was the famous Mall of America.
I was eager to see the sights of a land where there were over 10,000 lakes. Mainly, frozen lakes.
I ended up some quality time at another famous Minnesota landmark. A little Bed & Breakfast in Rochester they call The Mayo Clinic. Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but I left my gall bladder in southeastern Minnesota.
On a not-particularly eventful Wednesday, the week following surgery, I checked into a local Mayo outlet of sorts in Austin. I was feeling a bit of discomfort and found out that the hollow of where my gall bladder used to be had developed a small lake of fluid. Yes. Another Minnesota lake. 10,001.
It was, however, neither scenic, serene or healthy. I had developed an infectious cavity of water that was infected. My white blood cell count was elevated and let’s just say, I wasn’t feeling ready for any upcoming Oktoberfest activities.
They had decided upon a CT scan for my afternoon of frivolity and after the scan, the CT tech comes in and very nonchalantly asks, “Are you the guy with one kidney?” Immediately I thought that perhaps they were trying some sort of humor therapy, but I wasn’t in the mood.
“Uh, nooooo.” I responded. She then looked at me and said, “Oh, yes, you only have one kidney.”
Which prompts the question, “why then did you ask if YOU knew the answer?”
Now, I was sure that I had come in with two, and although I have a propensity to misplace things in my golden years, I couldn’t for the life of me remember where I’d misplaced it or if I’d had it removed and just forgot about it. “Are you sure?” I asked, realizing that she was dead serious.
“I mean,” I asked, “Did you check under the bed or in the closet with all my other personal items you took from me when you outfitted me in this spectacular open-backed autumn collection of gown hospital fashion?”
It hit me. I only had one kidney. How can you go 50-some years without knowing that kind of vital information? I began wondering what other tasty fun facts did my parents hide from me? Now I was questioning everything from how we got that new above-ground pool in 1969 and whether it was paid for with black-market funding to wondering if I were adopted?
I got nauseous. I mean, that kind of news is something you don’t just come back from. The nurse taking my vitals pointed out that my systolic blood pressure was a bit high. “YA think?” I just found out I had one kidney. I was sorry if I couldn’t be as nonchalant as the nursing staff.
Perhaps that is why I had such a distain for kidney beans all my life. My body simply rejected them. I have NEVER felt comfortable swimming in a kidney shaped pool, so, yeah, this may explain a lot.
And now, I have to change the opening of my autobiography. I was born with a bronchial tube that never opened. I was centimeters away from an open spine, and I had one little kidney.
“In 1956 I was born a frail child.”
I guess in retrospect, breaking my neck in two places, several pulled teeth, half of a lung extricated, a reconstructed knee and a broken ankle – I am really quite blessed to still be here. To be able to still run 20 miles per week and to still be on the basketball court with my sons and daughter. I will say, though, losing my gall bladder was a little disconcerting.
I mean, I really can’t afford to lose many more things. And with great wisdom and cautious advice, I say to my appendix. “Don’t get too comfortable.”
I guess you are never too old to learn about what’s inside, and what you’re made of when the bad news hits, or just generally, what you’re made of.