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03 April 2016


Note: I wrote this a few years ago, but this is the first time it has been released into “Cyberspace”. I don’t think the passage of time has reduced its relevance.

You know how women are prone to the opinion that men have no idea what pain is because they have never experienced labour and childbirth?

My aim here is to dispel that notion.

According to American medical sources, 80% of kidney stone sufferers are men between the age of 20 and 50. I can confidently tell you, from personal experience, that the pain caused by the passage of kidney stones (crystals) is one of the most excruciating, and this is widely acknowledged.

One Christmas, during the early 1970s, I was suddenly doubled up with a kind of pain I had never before experienced. I am resisting the temptation to say it was indescribable because here I am actually trying to describe it. What about a well-aimed kick with a steel toe-capped boot to the testicles? Yes, I think that does it, and worse still the kicking doesn’t stop, with the pain spreading
across the lower abdomen.

After about an hour of this I was reduced to a whimpering wreck begging for a doctor. This was the day after Christmas - Boxing Day - a public holiday. We were in London at the time, staying with my wife’s mother. She rang the number for her GP’s surgery, and within half an hour I was being visited by an on-call doctor (for which I was both grateful and impressed in equal measure).

It didn’t take him long to conclude that I had stones or “gravel” in my urinary tract and dosed me with pethidine, soon after which I sailed away to another planet somewhere. On my return to semi-consciousness (and the bathroom) I found myself passing a fine collection of little jagged particles. The relief of being free from that pain was unbelievable, almost orgasmic.

On our return to our Yorkshire home I went to see my own GP who organised an immediate x-ray at Scarborough Hospital. There I was laid on an x-ray trolley, injected with a red dye, and strapped down so tightly that I could hardly breathe. The nurse was called away for something and I was stuck there, gasping for breath for what seemed an eternity. In the end I called out to a passing maintenance man to get help, soon after which an apologetic radiographer appeared and got the overhead gear working for my special portrait. At the end of the session it was established that my personal plumbing was now clear of obstructions.

But a few weeks later the pain returned. It was as bad, but less scary because I recognised it for what it was. I still had a few pethidine left and self-administered the correct dose and enjoyed another inter-galactic round trip, followed by a visit to the bathroom with predictable results. A second x-ray (this time without the torture session beforehand) established I was clear again. After that I made a conscious effort to increase my fluids intake and was not troubled again.

And so my message to those women who regale us about the pain of labour and childbirth is this: at least for your pain you get a living, breathing bundle of joy at the end of it.

All I got was a little pile of grit!