Johnnie Carrier: Cast the first stone, please


NORTH ADAMS -- It's as if you were trying to sneeze a golf ball, but it's passing a kidney stone, and I'd rather sneeze than what I have to do. Like an egomaniacal tin god, I'm asking my Father why this is my cross to bear. But all you can do is beg by the time you're down to it.

It starts harmless enough with a dull ache in the back, and that can last for a month or more. And as that little ache in your back gets to be more than a little ache you grow mean, ill-willed and short-tempered. In other words, you act like any other married man only you can't hide it any longer. It's a kidney stone that's on its way down that magical highway from your kidney to the bladder. But it's really nothing yet, because it's still flowing.

Wait till that sucker gets stuck on the Urethra Franklin expressway. Its pain compared only to child birth, but a kidney stone won't forget about you as you grow old and crazy. When the stone is stuck, you are as sick as the time I drank way to much gin back in my teens. The pain forces you to tell the truth, so please avoid loved ones. Grab a stranger off the streets and make him take you to the ER or you'll confess to the Lindbergh kidnapping (or worse) to your wife.

Once at the ER, you wait. Acting as if you took a small caliber bullet to the stomach, you sit in the waiting room with your good friend, Mister Nausea. Inside the ER, you wait again, begging as if you were a dying flea on a hairless dog. Once the nurses and doctor get in the room they take great care of you, but they needed to show their excellence before I bit through my leather belt.

A shot is administered. And by the time you're wheeled away for the CAT scan, you feel well enough to joke that you are allergic to cats. Hey, don't blame me for a bad joke; I was cruising on opiates. The CAT scan proves you are a candidate for Stone School, and your topic for discussion is a list of your options.

Here are the facts. The stone is six millimeters. That's a little less than a quarter of an inch of jagged calcium that needs to get out of me. Well, sports fans, the old-fashioned way of cowboying up and passing it with the help of pharmaceuticals, my good doctor and a working knowledge of the rosary is an option. No. 2 is having my good doctor with all of his skill, training and knowledge go right up Broadway and pluck the dern thing out of me.

But you need to be knocked out (I would hope so) it's evasive (no, really), and since I've had two of them (ouch), I know firsthand that it's equally not cool. It's like being electrocuted slowly or eaten by a tiger, take your pick.

And that's where I am. I'm in kidney stone limbo. Not in any real pain because things are not blocked up anymore. But with a spin from a glass of water, I could be back in contact with my doctor, begging for him to perform whatever ‘ectomy it is.

I really want to dedicate this column to the men and women who get kidney stones. We are a forgotten group, except to our loved ones who we rely on in time of kidney crisis. (Hey, that's a good band name.)

Johnnie Carrier is a freelance writer who is crazy enough to think that kidney stones will give him street cred. He can be reached at


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