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(Tara Hardy for The Globe and Mail)
(Tara Hardy for The Globe and Mail)

Facts & Arguments Essay

My husband passed a kidney boulder Add to ...

Once upon a time, my husband had a rock.

Well, he believed it to be a boulder.

I believed it to be a mineral particle.

But it was called a stone.

This stone lived a quiet, unassuming life, deep inside my husband's kidney. I believe it ended up there when it fell down out of his head. He believes I fed it to him in the guise of flax seeds.

One day, this mineral particle boulder decided it wanted out. My husband disagreed. In fact, he disagreed so strongly he would curl up into a fetal position and hold his breath trying his best to keep his mineral particle boulder inside.

This mineral particle boulder was one determined stone. Don't forget where it had escaped from before landing inside his kidney. It had motivation.

In turn, my husband was finally motivated to go to the emergency room of our hospital. I found this to be slightly confusing as, like most men I know, my husband can be incapacitated by a simple cold, sore throat or sneeze, yet excruciating pain or profuse bleeding (such as occurred last Christmas during an unfortunate accident that happened while he was purchasing a Swiss Army knife) will only get you a terse: "I'm fine - I don't need a doctor!"

Of course I was sympathetic. I had, after all, given birth to three lovely babies. Three lovely, over-eight-pounds - each - babies!

But, given that this time he readily allowed me to drive him to the hospital and actually handed me the keys to his car, I felt that, perhaps, this was serious.

Emergency-room physicians give a presence of flight - at least they do at our hospital. In perpetual motion, the doctors' long, swirling, white coats always set the "privacy" curtains dancing as they hurry by. I'm not sure it's an actual fact, but I do believe an important part of earning your MD is mastering the art of Curtain Tossing for Dramatic Entrance and Exit. The skill is equal only to the ability of nurses to seemingly pass right through the curtain to the bedside, creating nary a ripple.

"How are you doing, Mr. Lapp?"

As soon as the doctor rested his hand on my husband's shoulder, I knew without a doubt: male bonding.

"While we wait for the results of your blood and urine tests, I think we should send you down for a CT scan. Is the morphine helping to take the edge off your pain? Good. Good. Okay, then, let's get the scan done and we'll know what's what," said the doctor with a squeeze of reassurance to my husband's shoulder and a quick smile in my direction.

My husband smiled his gratitude with doe-like eyes I'd never seen before. His newfound saviour returned the smile in kind. I made a noise.

I really didn't mean to. It wasn't exactly a cough, or a choke. Nor a giggle. Maybe a snort. I didn't think it was all that noticeable, and yet it commanded the instant attention of both my husband and his protector.

"Your husband is in a lot of pain right now, even with the morphine," the doctor said. "There isn't anything else that hurts quite this intensely. In all seriousness, he is doing well, but unfortunately it is going to get worse before we can get him better."

With one last smile (I don't think I was being oversensitive feeling it was directed more at my husband than at me), the doctor exited through the curtain with the expert twirl of a magician's cape.

I felt so admonished. I felt so confrontational.

Of course I was sympathetic. I had, after all, given birth to three lovely babies. Three lovely, over-eight-pounds - each - babies! So naturally I completely understood the difference between an eight-pound baby and a mineral particle boulder. Please.

"Argh!" became the rallying cry of Team HMPB (Husband Mineral Particle Boulder). Each time this stone made a rolling attempt to escape its confines, my husband bravely cheered it on with his cry. Clenching his fists and grinding his teeth, he became one with his stone. A true team, his stone and he.

Researching procedures and options, I must say I was drawn to descriptions rather than scientific names. In one, electric energy would be aimed at the stone to smash it into tiny particles. My husband thought I was a little too drawn to this description. I think "fixated" was the word he used.

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I am a kind and supportive spouse. I smiled encouragement whenever the rallying cry "Argh!" overtook him. He said having me smiling at him while he writhed was disturbing. He thought I was enjoying it (I wasn't). Too much (perhaps).

At long (long) last, his mineral particle boulder did break free and make its escape from the ureter that imprisoned it. Days of bed rest, lots of fluids and pain medication ensued.

My husband doesn't dwell too much on the loss of his teammate, although I have noticed over the years that he occasionally retells the story. Sometimes he can slip it right into the conversation before you even know it's coming and have a chance to duck.

"Oh! These summer sweetlet peas are delicious! You know, my dad always said there was nothing like summer sweetlet peas straight from the field, and he was right! These are perfect! But look at this," he says, rolling one pea apart from the rest. "You know, the doctor said my kidney stone …"

Something always happens to me at this part of the story, so I'm not sure how it ends. Perhaps I should stop leaving the room.

But one thing I do know for certain - his mineral particle boulder has (almost) become larger than life.

Mary Lapp lives in Markham, Ont.

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