For the past 15 years, I had taken great pains to forget a terrible episode in which I hit rock bottom. A couple of weeks ago, another terrible episode made me acutely aware that the great pains were back. And so was the rock.
In what I fear will become a series with more sequels than "Rocky," I had my second kidney stone.
The first -- now known as Kidney Stone I, designated with a Roman numeral to distinguish it from the recent one, Kidney Stone II -- struck in 1996. It happened in my hometown of Stamford, Conn., where I received great care and got the stone as a keepsake.
The latest episode started in Stamford, on a visit to my parents' house, and continued after my wife, Sue, and I returned to our house on Long Island, N.Y.
As a man who has been known to withstand a hangnail without flinching, I thought I could tough it out. But as the pain in my left side intensified to the point where it felt like I was trying to pass a bocce ball, I said to Sue, "I think we should go to the emergency room."
Sue drove me to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson, where two unsettling things happened: I noticed the word "memorial" on the sign outside the building and I was asked if I was on a "do not resuscitate" list.
Otherwise, I couldn't have been in better hands. A nurse named Ron showed his skill as a mixologist by making me a cocktail that eliminated not only the pain but most of my already limited cognitive functions.
I told Tom, the radiologic technologist who gave me a CAT scan, that we have three cats. "Will I need three scans?" I wondered.
"Just one," said Tom, adding, in response to my next question, "No, we don't have a DOG scan."
A little later, Dr. Perry Shapiro announced I had a kidney stone.
"It's pretty big," he said, giving me a prescription that included Percocet. Because I was still a little groggy, I didn't quite understand the rest of it, but I thought he said I could get the meds from a couple named Flo and Max.
Shapiro also gave me a paper strainer in the hope that this, too, would pass and the name of an excellent urologist named Dr. Albert Kim.
The next day, after I had an X-ray, Sue drove me to Kim's office in -- how appropriate is this? -- Stony Brook. As I got out of the car, I noticed a small rock in the parking lot. I picked it up and put it in the strainer.
In the office, a medical assistant named Grace asked how I was feeling.
"I think I passed the stone," I told her.
"That's great," she said. "Let's see."
I showed her the rock in the strainer. Grace's eyes bugged out of her head. "Oh, my God!" she exclaimed. "It's huge."
"Actually," I admitted, "I found it in the parking lot."
Grace laughed. Kim, who also was vastly amused, had already seen the X-ray. "We'll have to blast," he said.
"With dynamite?" I inquired fearfully.
"The Percocet is making you even dopier than usual," Sue noted.
Kim, who assured me that he wouldn't need explosives, scheduled the procedure in two days at a place called the Kidney Stone Center in East Setauket.
Meanwhile, I had to fill out so many forms that my hand hurt worse than my side.
On the day of the procedure, I was prepped by a very nice nurse named Gabrielle. Dr. Rick Melucci, the anesthesiologist, did everyone a favor by knocking me out. Kim then used shock waves on my kidney stone.
I'm not shocked that I am feeling much better. And I am grateful to everyone who took such good care of me, especially Sue.
Since these episodes seem to occur every 15 years, I won't have to worry about Kidney Stone III until 2026. In the meantime, the only rocks I have will be in my head.
Stamford Advocate columnist Jerry Zezima is the author of "Leave It to Boomer." Visit his blog: www.jerryzezima.blogspot.com. E-mail: JerryZ111@optonline.net.