5 Jun 2023

And Then A Long Old One...

   The latest post at Underdogs Bite Upwards makes for sad reading indeed but buried in there is reference to a kidney stone so I thought my adventure with such may dull his sadness for a while but I couldn’t leave links to the old posts owing to something called WormPress so I’m hoping someone wot’s looking through the Mirror and knows how, can pass on a link to this post to offer Leggy a little light relief.
First put up over three nights in 2017, here it is in a oner:

   I mostly seem to steer clear of colds an’ such and, in fact, the last illness I suffered, recent tick-a-tack aside, was a little under a hundred years ago when I was on a rig on tow from Singapore and getting close to location offshore Balikpapan which is situated in East Kalimantan which is situated, not as you may suspect close to Aberdeen, but the southern bit of Borneo, when I went low with a kidney stone.
   If you’ve been unfortunate enough to have suffered one of those you’ll know the extreme discomfort they cause. If you haven’t, keep drinking the water. You really don’t need one.
   Anyhoo, on the rig I was hurting and passing blood. Medic said stone and I was shipped into Balikpapan to see the French doctor in the oil company compound they had there. A stone it was decided was wot I had and I was later packed off to Jakarta to an expat hospital, run by the medical insurance outfit we were covered by, for further tests.
   Before I left Balikpapan, the French guy told me, and I remember it like it was yesterday, that in the old days they would tightly strap two tennis balls to your lower back, lie you down on ‘em and slowly inject a huge amount of contrast fluid into you, via your wrist, while taking X-rays. The tennis balls, he said, were to flatten out your innards the better for the X-ray to spot the stone. This process he assured me was in the past as it was total agony. Oh how I laughed to myself at the misfortune of those that went before. Thanking him for this good news I hobbled into a fast-black and headed for the airport.
   Upon arrival in Jakarta, I looked out the aircraft window as we taxied to the terminal and saw an ambulance coasting alongside the plane. Mmm, wondered I to me; who’s that for then? Yup, it was for me. How cool is that? All arrival formalities taken care of for me and we raced through Jakarta – no easy feat – with, at my request, lights a-flashing and siren a-wailing. No, they wouldn’t let me drive.
   The hospital was very small and staffed by Australian doctors and, unsurprisingly, Indonesian nurses. The next day they came along to take me to the diagnostic unit. This turned out to be the couch across the room.
   As I lay down I saw a pretty little nurse approaching deftly juggling... yup, you guessed it, two tennis balls. Oh how I regretted laughing to myself believing I’d missed the misfortune of those that came before. And thus began the procedure I’d been assured had been consigned to the big bin of bad procedures many years before.
   These tennis balls were firmly wrapped against my lower back and then I was lowered to the horizontal position on the rock-hard couch thus, by the cunning positioning of the tennis balls, my kidlys were squeezed out as flat as pancakes. As I was already in some considerable pain, my threshold not being all that high in the first place, this, let me tell you, was agonising and the only solace was being surrounded by four pretty young ladies, dressed-up as nurses, who were gently calming me by the simple expedient of caressing my fevered brow, shoulders, arms and lower legs. I repeat, lower legs.
   It was then I glanced to my side and saw a guy approaching with wot looked like a litre can of white emulsion. As he drew closer I observed a needle protruding from the bottom of the can and that he was carrying it, not by a handle, but by a plunger. I quickly realised what this was for and my mind descended into a very deep, lonely pit.
   The needle, as best I remember as I wasn’t taking notes at the time, was inserted into the back of my hand and the doctor who was driving the emulsion pump then said, “Okay, here we go so hold on real tight, hold real still and, by the way, this isn’t going to be very nice at all.”  I kept quiet as ‘Thank you’ didn’t seem to be an appropriate response. Thus I descended yet further into that dark place.
   Every sinew of my body was by now tighter than an over-tightened bow string and singing silently in pain. I say silently, but it’s quite possible the local dogs heard me. In fact I’m sure that if, at that time, someone had dropped so much as a cotton-bud on me, my body would’ve shattered into a million bits.
   What seemed like light years later I heard a voice-off saying, “That is it. It is over. Well done you.” Again, replying, ‘Thank you’ didn’t seem to fit so I offered up a very weak smile. I have no recollection of when the actual X-rays were taken.
   I opened my eyes in time to see my four gentle guardian angels smile at me and then float away like the soft morning mist from the tranquil Bay of Care, leaving just the one young lady eager to retrieve her tennis balls.
   A little later the doctor confirmed the presence of a pesky kidley stone and informed me that the next day I’d be fired off to Singapore and into the care of the leading urologist in the whole of SEA. He further said a car would be here directly so I could spend the night in an hotel rather than on a trolley in a cupboard.
   The hotel, the name of which I don’t remember, was a stunner and it was such a shame I was in no shape to enjoy one moment of it as the only way I’d found to ease the pain somewhat was to stand in the shower with hot-hot water hammering my left kidley area. Of sleep, I was getting little to none.
   Next AM I was taken to the airport, whisked through the formalities and shortly thereafter arrived in Singapore where, once again, I was escorted off the aircraft, silently eased through that passport control stuff and was dropped off at another cracking hotel and informed I’d be collected early doors the next day to go see the leading urologist in the whole of SEA.
   Early AM, after another sleepless, showery night, my ride arrived and in moments I was sitting in front of the leading urologist in the whole of SEA. He checked the X-rays that I’d carried up from Jakarta and said they’d do another to see if it’d moved.
   Walking to the ray room I was wondering how many more rays I could take before being transformed into some sort of super hero or, more likely, a big blob of radioactive jelly.
   Ray done and me still being me, the doctor stated there’d been no movement and continued thusly. “There are three options open to you. I’ll go through them but the final choice is with you.”
”I understand.” Seemed as good a response as any as I did, indeed, understand. So far.
”Right; first, we can just leave it and for sure, eventually, you will pass the stone. This could be in as little as a week but could be as long as six months plus. Plus pain.”
”Okay.” Seemed good enough at this early juncture.
”Two, we go up your willy with a fibre optic cable with a mini grabber on the end. The driver uses the X-ray as a road map and steers the grab up your tubes and when he sees the stone on his screen he’ll activate the grabber to grab the stone and then pull it all back out. Slowly, if you were wondering.”
”Oooooooookay.” I replied, thinking that going by wot choice one and two offered, three was going to be a doozy.
”Option three, and this is a doozy,” said the doctor, “we painfully pound the sucker into little bits using ultrasonics and you should be able to pass the remains within twelve hours. That is it. Your choice. Your call.”
   I thought this through. Number one was a non-starter as, over six months, work was going to get in the way of showers. Two? I had visions of lying there then hearing a quiet voice, “Oops. How the hell did it grab onto that bit? Better get the doctor down here right quick.” Three? I’m in pain now, so more pain? No pain no gain as they say.
“Number three please. I like the sound of ultrasound.” I said with as much bravado as my pain rattled body could muster.
”Great!!” Exclaimed the doc, “We finally get to play... Er, great, ultrasound it is then. Be hear early tomorrow, we’ll check you in, blast the sucker and we’ll keep you in overnight as this is really going to hurt and the pain could be with you for a few hours and we’ll be able to manage it as and when you screa... er, need.”
   Back to the hotel for another extended period alternating between trying to sleep, sitting on the petty and taking hot-hot shower therapy. Towards morning the pain seemed to be getting somewhat worse and at about six in the AM I left the shower and sat despondently on the toilet.
   What follows is an example of human reflexes and how amazing they can be in times of need.
   I was sitting there, head in hands feeling particularly sorry for myself, when I suddenly coughed. It was most fortuitous that I was sitting on the petty at the time, as that cough caused Percy to pour a copious stream of pee at the porcelain. However, wot grabbed my attention was a faint sound; a sort of ‘tink’ sounding sound. And this is when my brain/hand coordination worked on a whole higher level. Was it some super power bestowed on me, briefly, by all those X-rays you think?
   My right hand left my head, dived between my legs and, unbelievably, my thumb trapped the minute object, the object I guessed was responsible for that ‘tink’ sound, before it was washed down the toilet. Upon retrieval and inspection I was sure I had captured my kidney stone. This was pretty well confirmed as, amazingly, within seconds of the cough, the gush and the ‘tink’, the pain was receding at a dramatic pace.
   Later, after carefully washing my almost microscopic nemesis and wrapping it in tissue, pain all but over, I voyaged through the hotel and down the road to the hospital wearing the broadest, goofiest of smiles, a song in my heart and wishing anyone and everyone a wonderful day.
   The doctor inspected my offering and confirmed the minuscule pointy bit of calcium was it and, looking a tad sad that they’d been cheated out of the sound blaster bash, gave me a course of pills to clean my tubes and the advice that urine should be, but rarely is, as clear as gin and when heading towards yellow to horse down plenty of water. He glanced down, spotted my job description and made clear; as clear as gin - drink water and not the other way round.
   He then handed me a folder of all my X-rays and bade me bu-by. I found it quite amazing that such a ridiculously small bit o’ rock could cause so much grief.
   Shortly thereafter I got a call from my outfit saying I’d been passed fit for work but, sadly, they couldn’t get me on a flight back to Balikpapan until the day after tomorrow so I’d be ‘stuck’ in Singapore for two more nights. Damn!! Never mind; time to catch up on some sleep, right? Alternatively, I could go down to Clark Quay and Boat Quay and let off a little steam. I’ll let you figure out wot I done did. No prizes, okay?
   Feeling greatly good and happy all over and relaxed after a couple of fun filled days and nights ‘convalescing’ in Singapore, it was time to get my sorry ass back to work.
   It seems the precise moment the doctor declared me fit was the precise moment the medical insurers, who’s help and support had been excellent throughout my poorly boy period, deleted me from their care and support folded so I was back to running on solo again. Back to getting my own taxies, back to that queuing at passport control an’ all that common people stuff. Shame, as I’d got used to just floating through unhindered. I finally boarded the direct flight to Balikpapan and soon we were on our way.
   Five miles out from Changi Airport there was a very loud bang from the vicinity of the left engine, the aircraft banked to the left and, I guessed correctly, started its somewhat erratic track back to Changi. Folk were now getting quite agitated whereas I, a world weary, international jet-setting roughneck, slightly hung-over, sat tight and thought, ‘Damn! Have I just gone through all those days of pain and misery just to get totally broken in a broken plane? Damn! Wish I’d stayed out later last night. Damn.’
   I’m typing this so you know all ended well and after what seemed like never ending side to side and up and down flying, we came into an equally bumpy, swervy landing back at Changi. I looked out the window but this time I didn’t see a limo coming to pick me up but a fire truck and one of they access stairways on a truck pacing along with us.
   We stopped and disembarked by the stairs and not, as I’d hoped, by one of they inflatable, slidey thingies.
   Back in a private lounge we were offered assistance of one sort or another. I could relate to this as, upon looking around, there were some seriously shaken-up folk. Eventually, we were told that the aircraft had been declared sick and was thus out of commission and it would be two to four hours before a replacement aircraft would be available for the flight and so please, if we were to leave this lounge, listen out for further updates and information as it became available.
   I elected to leave the lounge, having declined any help as non of it involved strong drink, and enquired of the fellow on the door as to what the problem was with the sick bird. He said that early investigations seemed to suggest the aircraft had developed a carburettor stone... Okay, I made that bit up.
   You been to Singapore Changi Airport? It’s quite some place and all you could wish for is on offer. Myself, being oilfield trash, elected to spend the waiting time at Harry’s Bar.
   Four hours later we were called and boarded and had a normal, uneventful flight. After Harry’s, I slept the flight away. I did notice, upon boarding, that of the original seventy odd passengers from the first flight, only roughly thirty thrill seekers bothered boarded the second flight.
   So concludes my adventures with a kidney stone since which time I’ve never been more than arms length from a bottle or glass of water.

Quote;  Dave Barry.

“I become faint and nauseous during even very minor medical procedures, such as making an appointment by phone.


Timbotoo said...

Excellent tale. The last bit reminded me of a flight I took from Heathrow to Jakarta back in the 90’s. There was a problem with an engine developing full thrust. After barreling down the runway twice only to slam on the brakes at the last minute, crawling back to the gate, deplane, watch a lot of head scratching and poking in between, they served dinner on the ground after the second try and then told us to get off and collect our suitcases to go to an hotel.
As my companion and I were traveling with just carry on, we got a cab and went straight to the hotel, in the heart of London (1st class you know) The coach turned up four hours later as the driver got lost.
Back again next evening we two were the only passengers in first class. The stewardess told us that all the rest were a graduating class of a course to combat fear of flying and this trip was to have been a celebration for them!

Doonhamer said...

Thank you for that.
When I have been in an aircraft going through problems I always console myself with the knowledge that the pilots are well trained and want to survive. And where possible ask for another large whisky. No e. The cabin crew are always pleased to serve a calm traveller.
Unlike being a passenger in a car in UK driven by a loony, drunk, friend, or in a taxi in an Eastern country where the driver believes in "in sh'allah" and is thus absolved of all blame. And keeps looking at you to see if you appreciate his skills, rather than at the huge multi-coloured overloaded lorry approaching on the wrong side of the "road".
Our cat had the ultra sonic treatment and saved huge vet operation bill or death.
Keep taking the medicine. Slainte.

Mac said...

Timbotoo, Doonhamer,
Thanks for the comments.
With the mention of taxies I was reminded of the advice we were given prior to the rigs first job offshore Vietnam.
And that was? When ashore, if you ever got a taxi to ‘X’ and on the way said taxi was involved in any sort of incident, you should quickly throw money onto the front seat, bail out and get lost in the crowds right quick.
Why? Well, if you waited for the law to arrive, you’d be arrested as the cause of the incident. Why? Simple; if you hadn’t asked the taxi to take you to ‘X’, the taxi wouldn’t have been there. There’s a certain logic in that I guess...

Ripper said...

If you need Leggy's attention for anything private, drop him a mail - legironbooks@gmail.com and include your link. No doubt you know his name is Kevin. Alternately you could drop an invite on his blog in the comments.

Ripper said...

Just dropped a comment at Leggy's place, with a link to this page.

Mac said...

Thanks, appreciate that.
It was the WordPress hurdle I stumbled at although I didn't try very hard to get over it.
Thanks again buddy.

Legiron said...

I can confirm the unpleasantness of passing the stone (in a rush of blood) and the almost immediate relief when it was gone. I'm also drinking a hell of a lot more water since that happened!
It happened before I went to the doctor because I really do have to be at death's door before I call them - and they know that if they get a call from me, it's definitely nothing trivial. Still, they didn't need to test the urine sample for blood. Just held it up to the light.
Apparently I'm supposed to go for a scan at some point, to check for any more, but no invitation yet. After that description with the tennis balls and the pot of paint I'm okay if they forget about me.
At least I didn't follow it with a dodgy plane ride.

Mac said...

Fear not; I was assured tennis balls were but a distant memory. That was back in 1996 shortly before I was subjected to said procedure. Go figure.
The aircraft 'problem'? Just the icing on the cake of misery.
Whoa! Need a bottle of water...

Legiron said...

I had the scan. No tennis balls, it was all very relaxed. Seems I still have some stones in there so the next step is likely to be the ultranuke treatment.
The doctor seemed very excited with the results. Took me a couple of days to realise it was a case of 'Finally, we found something wrong with this bugger!'

Mac said...

Hope all goes well for you. Back in the day, if I hadn’t passed the stone and bombing was called for, they’d have kept me in dock for 24 hours so’s they could pump me up with jolly juice as needed. If that was now, in our mad world, I’d be delighted to be given legal, free jolly juice to ‘escape’ reality for a while.
Off topic, and a tad cheekily, you occasionally put one of your short stories up on your site. Have you ever visited this site? They’re always looking for material. Large readership and a little free advertising for your publishing endeavours you think? Just a thought...