Jack's pain just scared me.
I had been asleep less than two hours when my husband Jack woke me. I opened my eyes to see Jack writhing on his side of the bed. His knees were drawn up to his chest. Deep grooves lined his forehead.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I don’t know.” Jack’s voice was husky and strained. “I woke up about an hour ago with a bad pain in my left lower back. I went downstairs so I wouldn’t wake you. It’s getting worse. I threw up, but I think it was just from the pain.”
“I’ll call Dr. Blank.” I got out of bed and padded downstairs to the kitchen. I left our number on Dr. Blank’s pager and went back upstairs. The phone rang in a couple of
“Thanks for calling back so quickly,” I told Dr. Blank. I explained Jack’s symptoms.
“It sounds like he has kidney stones or he’s pulled something in his back. Neither is life-threatening. But you do need to take him to the emergency room so they can find out what it is and give him something for the pain. Call me in the morning and let me know what happens.”
The next call I made was to a close friend who lives five minutes from our house. “Bill, it’s Anne,” I told my sleepy friend. “I’m really sorry to wake you at two in the morning. I’ve got to take Jack to the emergency room. Could you or Betsy come over and sleep on our couch in case the kids wake up?” Jack pulled on some jeans and sat hunched over on the side of the bed. I eased his socks and shoes onto his feet and clumsily tied the thick laces. Jack stumbled downstairs and climbed into the back of our van. He kneeled on the floor beside the middle seat and buried his face in the upholstery. Every few seconds he moaned. Bill appeared as I opened the garage door. “There are two small bottles of juice at the top of the stairs,” I explained. “If Johnny wakes up, just give him one of the bottles and let him lie down with you. He should go back to sleep. If one of the girls wakes up, tell them we had to take Daddy to the doctor, and we’ll be home in the morning.”
Bill waved sleepily as I backed out of the driveway and steered the van out of the dark cul-de-sac.
As I sped toward the hospital, I thought of all the times Jack has driven me to the hospital in the middle of the night. Those times, when our children were born, the empty streets seemed strangely intimate. We moved toward the maternity ward with excitement and anticipation. Even the pain of contractions felt hopeful, constructive, pain with a purpose.
Jack’s pain just scared me. I glanced in the rearview mirror. “We’re almost there,” I told him.
Jack moaned in reply.
At the emergency room, the nurses treated Jack’s agony matter-of-factly. “Is he allergic to any medications?” the triage nurse asked as Jack rocked back and forth in the hard plastic chair.
“No,” I answered.
I helped Jack tie the laces on his white hospital gown. Then we waited behind curtain number four for what felt like 20 minutes. Finally Jack raised his head and looked at me like a fox with his foot caught in a trap. “I don’t know how long I can do this,” he croaked.
I stuck my head out into the corridor and asked one of the receptionists, “Do you know where our nurse is?”
“She’ll be right back,” the receptionist said.
A few minutes later, our nurse, Kelly, walked in with Fran, the physician’s assistants They stood at the side of Jack’s bed. Fran said, “We’ll get you hooked up to an I.V., Mr. Albright, and then we’ll get you something for the pain.”
They couldn’t find a vein in Jack’s arm and had to put the I.V. in his hand. “Here comes relief,” Kelly said and injected something into Jack’s I.V.
A few moments later, she asked, “Did that help?”
Jack shook his head, “No,” and kept his eyes shut.
“Give him the other 30,” Fran told Kelly.
Kelly emptied the syringe into the I.V. “Feel any better?”
Jack shook his head again.
“Let’s go with morphine,” Fran said.
While Kelly went to get the morphine, Fran explained that for men, the pain of kidney stones is as close as they’ll ever come to giving birth.
Ten minutes later, when they had given Jack 15 milligrams of morphine, he opened his eyes. The lines on his forehead softened. He smiled at Kelly. “Thank you,” he said hoarsely.
Three hours, one CAT scan, and two more doses of morphine later, I drove Jack home. The nurses told us that Jack had two kidney stones. They weren’t big enough to warrant surgery. Jack had to drink lots of water and take painkillers until the stones passed out of his body within the next few days.
When we got home just before dawn. Bill sat on the family-room couch with Johnny. Johnny raised his bottle to Jack. “Dah-deee,” Johnny said.
“We’re partyin’, dude,” Bill replied.
“Not for a while,” Jack said and went upstairs to bed.