The True Measure of Friendship

Tuesday morning started out almost like every other morning. I woke up, I showered, I got dressed and ready for work.

Difference was, I had a couple bowls of cereal. I was actually not running late, so I figured I’d treat myself to something that I should be treating myself to every other day– breakfast.

I ran out the door and walked to my car. I figured I’d drive that day because (A) my car was parked a block away and I wanted to bring it closer; and (B) I had rehearsal that night, so if I got out of work later, I could zip right to rehearsal.

On the way to work, I felt the need to use the bathroom. Which was odd because I had just used the bathroom before I left. “Crap, I bet that bathroom is still not fixed,” I said to myself. The men’s bathroom on my side of the 43rd floor had been out of order all week, which made it very inconvenient to even pee. Oh well, there were other bathrooms. I’d just have to deal.

When I got to the building, two of my co-workers were coming in from having a cigarette. One of them had been out sick on Monday so I asked how she was feeling. She said, “OK, still not 100% but I’m getting there.” I told her “I have a bit of a tummyache right now, but I’m doing ok too.”

By the time I reached my desk, my tummyache grew a lot worse. I turned on my computer and rushed to the nearest bathroom, which is on the other side of the building.

And nothing much happened.

But my pain was still there.

“Great,” I said to myself. “I know this pain. It feels like a kidney stone.”

The second one in two months.

I went back to my desk and tried to work, but it was no use. The pain got worse very quickly. My co-worker, Karen, came by my desk to ask me a question and I said, “Karen, I think I have another kidney stone. I’m going to try to use the bathroom again, but if it gets worse I may have to go home.” She said fine, if you need to go, go.

I went back to the bathroom. I had only been at work for an hour. I tried again but nothing much came out. And then I saw the blood in my urine. Yep. Definitely a kidney stone.

But what happened next threw me for a loop. I suddenly grew nauseous and felt the need to vomit. And I did.

Well that ended that. I cleaned up and went back to my desk and told Karen I had to go home. Thank goodness I drove in to work. Riding the El in this condition would have been a nightmare.

I have had two kidney stones before this. Each one passed rather easily in the end. The first one registered a visit to the hospital, mainly because I had no idea what it was. The second one just took a visit to the doctor and it was out shortly after that. This one nearly killed me.

Of course I’m being a bit overdramatic, but the pain was searingly intense. And the stone was NOT moving. If a kidney stone moves, you know it. There is sharp pain, and blood in the urine. After I got home, there was only dull, constant, nagging pain and clear urine. And then there was the constant vomiting. That scared me more than anything else. I called my doctor and she said to come in at 5:30, but if the pain got unbearable to just go to the Emergency Room.

By 4:00 I was ready to go to the ER. I had been chatting on AIM with my friend Jeremy, and he said if I needed help to let him know. I definitely needed help. He left work, got in his car, and picked me up and brought me to the ER.

On the way to the hospital, Jeremy told me that he had called our friends Ricardo and Rafael, and they were going to meet us there as soon as they could get there.

If I wasn’t already crying from the pain, I would have cried anyway. I couldn’t believe that my friends would be that selfless– to come to my aid when I needed them, even for something like a kidney stone. I’ve never experienced that kind of dedication from a friend before. It touched me so deeply.

Jeremy stayed with me while we waited for them to call me, and Ricardo arrived just before they called me in. And when they did, they put me at the top of their list. They brought me in back, pumped me with fluids and gave me lots of wonderful pain medication. And even though they said I could only have two visitors at a time, when Ricardo snuck Rafael in to see me with him and Jeremy, they never said a word– they even brought in an extra chair.

My hospital, Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, is one of the largest and most highly-respected hospitals in the city; and from the moment my name was called to the moment they let me go, they were courteous, professional, caring, and at times even funny to deal with. Every time I have had anything done there, my experience has been positive. I can’t say enough about it, except that my ER doctor (Doctor Beach, or as we called him, Doctor Sandy Shores– he was cute!) and my nurse, Jennifer, who was with me from start to finish, were outstanding.

I passed the stone later that night. It had moved along far enough that they didn’t need to operate or anything– thank goodness. But the pain is still with me and at times is rather intense. I stayed home from work today and got a ton of rest. Those stones may be little, but they do a lot of damage.

I learned a lot through this ordeal. I learned that heredity speaks volumes to your own condition. My dad has this problem as well as my uncle. We have the same type of stones (uric acid) and will (probably) need to take the same medication. Blood really is thicker than water.

I also learned that while the love of my family is incredibly strong, the love for my friends is just as strong. Because while I am living this life, in this big city, on my own… they are also my family. And I consider myself a very lucky guy to have found a family like this.

So thank you Jeremy, Rafael, and Ricardo; as well as my other friends: Arnie, Jason, Adam, Trung, Jeffrey, Ray, Karen, Scott, Pua, and many, many others. You have touched me with your friendship. I am so incredibly blessed.

My friends, clockwise from me (upper left): Rafael, Arnie, Ricardo, and Jeremy.