Last week, Simone Biles competed in a gymnastics championship and won several events — all while suffering from a kidney stone. That’s nothing short of stunning. I say that as someone who once had a kidney stone, which was so debilitating I couldn’t have done a single sit-up, let alone flipped and twisted and spun. I wrote about the experience last year:
After a couple of hours of writhing in pain at home, my wife insisted that she take me to the emergency room. After I went through the initial triage by a nurse, a doctor came in and introduced himself, but I was in so much agony, I didn’t catch his name. I just nodded and said, “Help!”
The doctor instructed the nurses to pump several liters of saline solution through my veins until the pressure pushed the stone out of my urethra. Meanwhile, he ordered a morphine drip, which would make me feel better right away (it did). It came with a button that allowed me to self-administer the medication if and when the pain returned.
After a half-hour or so, I felt the morphine wear off and the deep twinge inside me returning. Desperate to avoid the discomfort, I hit that button, then hit it again and again. The doctor happened to be watching me and asked, “Do you think we’re idiots?” I replied, “What are you talking about?” He explained, “That button gives you one dose when you need it, but then it has a timer so you can’t give yourself another one for awhile. That’s to keep you from overdosing or, worse yet, developing a dependence on the morphine. You’re here to get rid of the kidney stone, not to become a drug addict.”
As he talked, the morphine kicked in and I felt better again. That’s when I asked the doctor to repeat his name, and he did: Til Jolly. I don’t know if it was the medicine or the natural way the comedy center of my brain works, but I thought his name sounded like part of a prescription: “Take two doses of morphine three times a day ’til jolly.”
When I finally passed the stone (by peeing through a strainer), a nurse retrieved the culprit behind all of my pain. It was no bigger than a caraway seed. She asked me how I felt. I said, “Jolly!”
Ms. Biles’ experience was a little different than mine. She was hospitalized for a day before the world gymnastics competition in Qatar, but left the hospital without passing the stone. Then all she did was go out and win a medal in every event she competed in. How she suppressed the pain and performed at such a high level is beyond me. When I left the hospital — after the stone was a mere memory — the most physical thing I was up for was getting back in the car so my wife could take me somewhere for pizza and ice cream.
It was my favorite flavor: Chocolate Morphine Chip.