The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 14, 2012

MICHELE M. BENDER | Rocky times with kidney stones

Michele M. Bender
For The Tribune-Democrat

— Father Jim, a hospital chaplain, stood in my doorway. “Are you here AGAIN?”

“I come for the food,” I grinned. “I can’t resist the stewed tomatoes!”

Yes, here I sit writing about yet another hospitalization.

When my friend Sharon in Harrisburg called, I quizzed her. “Do you think another column about my ailments will bore my readers?”

“You’re kidding, right?” she laughed. “Your readers are OUR age! They deal with illness, too. They’ll LOVE it!”

Most folks have a fairly healthy gene pool. I have a septic tank.

My ancestors suffered from a cornucopia of maladies. Over the past two years, I’ve flirted with pretty much all of them.

I’ve become a familiar face at Conemaugh Memorial.

Highmark gives me Cash Back Bonus points and I’ve accumulated  “frequent ambulance rider” miles. A “Reconstructed Vehicle” title has replaced my birth certificate.

Have you ever had a kidney stone? You’d remember if you had! A potpourri of dandy complications accompanies them as well: Continuous pressure, burning, and, well…other issues. ( Don’t make me say it!)

It seems I’ve blazed the genetic trail to the kidney stone quarry. Apparently, I’m the first “stoner” in our family.

Most kidney stones disintegrate simply during a procedure called “lipotripsy.” My indestructible cinders consisted of kryptonite reinforced with Rustoleum.

These impenetrable boulders frustrated my urologist, Dr. F, but he and his amazing staff rose to the challenge.

Karen, Courtney, Brad and Mark answered my zillion questions.

Dr. F even drew a diagram of my “innards.” I posted it on the bulletin board in my hospital room. (I didn’t have a fridge or magnets handy!)

Physician’s  Assistant  Mark said he’d observed more troublesome stones among baby boomers. Could this be backlash from our misspent youth?

My journeys always began in Outpatient Surgery, where Sandy, Sheri and others prepped me and kept me calm.

Anesthesiologists and O.R. nurse Shirley guided me through my adventures.

Phlebotomists Marilyn and Karen and I.V. technicians Stephanie and Lea gently “needled” me.

Jeri, Sharon, Rhonda and Patt made my various rooms sparkle.

I’ll never be able to remember all my compassionate caregivers, but I’ll try! Sonia, Ashley, Lorraine, Mike, Kim, Becca, Erronique, Heather, Josh, Dyan, Sheila, Courtney, Marcia, Dee, Lindsey, Denise, Kelly, Trina, Danielle, Kayla, John, Andrea, Julie, Bonnie…God bless you. I deeply appreciated your skillful, healing hands.


With luck, no more “pebbles” will rattle my guts.

Let’s hope that any stones in my future will be the type measured in carats!

Michele Mikesic Bender is a Johnstown resident and a member of  The Tribune-Democrat’s Readership Advisory Committee.

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