In a new book, ‘The Black Swan ,” author Nassim Nicholas Taleb proposes an interesting concept whereby the unexpected events in our lives shape us more than those you predict. He relates this idea to the notion that just because we’ve never seen a black swan doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

It’s an intriguing concept for a book and he associates this book with disasters, politics and culture. Although the title doesn’t deliver anything revolutionary, it was enough for reflection this past weekend – because one of my unexpected “Black Swans” came out of nowhere and landed me in the ER Sunday night.

I’d been to the Great Body Company Sunday afternoon to work out. I recently started a New Year’s resolution to drop a few pounds and feeling good about my decision, I decided instead of gorging with friends on beer and chips in front of Super Bowl 43, I chose to relax at home.

Almost immediately after Bruce Springsteen finished up ‘Glory Day’s during halftime , I experienced the worst cramping sensations in my stomach I’ve ever experienced.

At first, I thought it was the peanuts. With the recent scare about this product recall, I couldn’t help but think I had some bad mojo.

An hour later though, after an onset of nausea, cold chills and a stabbing sensation in my lower right side – I knew something wasn’t right. Usually, an Alka Seltzer takes care of any stomach pains for me, but there was no quick fix tonight.

For a moment, I thought about calling 911, but couldn’t stand the thought of an ambulance in my driveway. It’s always the talk of the neighborhood when that happens, so I called my Mother and Uncle Ron who lived nearby and within minutes, I was in a wheel chair, rolling into the emergency room, delirious and soaking wet in 20 degrees of weather.

That’s when the first hint, “Have you ever had a kidney stone” was suggested by an attendant in the hallway of Holston Valley Medical Center .

Kidney Stones sound like something left over from a witch doctor and although I’ve heard about them often over the past several years, you never really understand the pain until you experience this condition first hand. You know the frowning face pain chart at many doctor’s offices? The one that measures pain intensity? Level 10 is reserved for kidney stones.

Technically, it’s called Ureteral Lithiasis and the short story is there are small vessels that carry urine from the kidney to the bladder. These tubes are the size of a pencil lead, but over time, crystals build up from caffeine, calcium and other types of food to create stones that get stuck. They’re not smooth stones either – some are called “jagged” and an even uglier name – “staghorn.”

Kidney stones have been around for a long time and have even been discovered in 7,000 year old mummies. I can’t imagine what kind of pain medication those guys had to contend with, much less the care.

That’s enough about the pain – makes me dizzy up to think about it, but one things for certain. Kingsport is fortunate to have some great care workers in both hospitals and even though we talk about it alot at Chamber sessions , it’s never more evident than when you need it.

I guess you could say this was a “bipartisan effort” too. Most everyone knows we have two competing hospitals in our area and over the past few days, I’ve experienced the best of both.

Dr. Carl Harris was the attending caregiver in the Wellmont ER Sunday night and their staff couldn’t have been more accomodating. Each member of his team was as intense and passionate about their work as any professional could be. Within moments, I was attended to by nurses, aides – all operating the best of equipment and thankfully…medication. From the EKG to the Cscan, I couldn’t have been in better hands – I was discouraged when he told me Arizona lost the big game though.

After examining my X-Rays with the family, Dr. Harris suggested that I meet with a urologist the very next day.

My kidney stone measured 7 millimeters and as he explained, most people can pass a 3 millimeter and mine was stuck right before the bladder. Most of my pain this evening was caused by the spasms as it tried to move from my kidney on down.

It was early Monday morning and I made no haste to review the paperwork neatly provided for me by the ER from the night before and I made a phone call to Dr. Kurt Ick at Kingsport Urology Group. I was greeted by a friendly voice and explained my situation. Within moments, I had a call back and an appointment in 30 minutes.

Surprised, I made my way to the campus of Indian Path Medical Center and upon my arrival there spoke with a young passionate urologist who was completely aware of my situation from the documents passed along from the previous night. Before my visit was complete, we had surgery scheduled the very next morning.

After reeling from the pain, I was admittedly in a state of disbelief (after all it was Groundhog’s Day), but eager to resolve the pain as quickly as I could. Even though the forecasters were calling for snow, it seemed I had a personal crew all dedicated to my attention and I prepared for the next day with anxiety and reservation.

Thankfully, there was no snowfall on Wednesday.

Since I was pre-admitted on Tuesday, it was only minutes before I was in a room with another gentleman of 88 years who was also in for kidney surgery.

Ben Cunningham was born in 1920 and a 40 year principal from Hawkins County. He seemed extremely optimistic about his surgery and we had some time to commiserate before the doctor led us off to the holding room.

The surgery for Kidney Stones is an out-patient function and only takes about an hour or so to perform. Although I saw Dr. Ick moments before my “cocktail” took effect, I was back in my room within a couple of hours – stone-free.

Before the day was over, I had seen plenty of alert and responsive professionals tending to my every need.

My nurse had one of the prettiest smiles I’ve ever seen and as I was preparing to leave shortly after lunch, she had given me a “Thank You” card – signed by everyone on my care team. Imagine that? The printed caption read, “Bringing Loving Care to Healthcare.” The card was signed by the surgery team, the holding crew, the short stay nurse and even the pre-admission folks had taken time to jot a note.

We really have something truly special here in East Tennessee and it’s an individual characteristic that runs through the hearts of our professionals right down to the organizations they work for.

I’ve learned alot about kidney stones over the past few days.

A lot of folks have stories that most often begin with a grimace. For me, I’m thankful for the quality of health care services, my friends and the folks who shared this experience with me. I’m still working on that diet too because once again – a regular habit of drinking water can sure help you stay off the gurney.

Thank you Kingsport health care professionals – you’re the best!

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