Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Are you really a urologist, or are you just taking the...

Different people have different ways of dealing with pain. Some grit their teeth and take it stoically. Some scream and thrash about. I usually lie there wondering how I can turn the experience into an inappropriate anecdote I can use to put other people off their food during a meal.

This morning's procedure was no exception. Friends and relatives who have gone through "stent removal" (the stent in question being a small flexible silicone tube put into the ureter from kidney to bladder to protect it while it heals from the damage done by a kidney stone ripping along it, and not a particular retired BBC journalist of such irritating mien that on three separate occasions he came within a gnat's wing of being picked up by the shirt collar by an enraged Gypsy and shaken until his fillings rattled) have cheerily told tales of doctors putting a foot against the patient's stomach and pulling with both hands. The consultant merrily told me that the doctor in question "will just brace his back against the door and yank it out with both hands".

While in the waiting area outside the alarmingly sound-proofed treatment room, I was buoyed up by the fact that several other people arrived prepared to go in after me, who would be a perfect captive audience for my well-embroidered narrative when I came out.

As it turns out, the procedure of getting the endoscope into the bladder in the first place is a lot more teeth-gritting than that of pulling the stent out - even then it's more stinging and discomfort than actual pain. When the doctor pulled the thing out with a flourish he held it up, writhing and twisting like a decapitated snake. Within minutes I walked out again with my stent in a jar to embark on the enjoyable process of winding up the waiting patients.

There was a nice-looking chap sitting there in his hospital gown with his wife next to him, looking very nervous. I put the stent jar down on the table, without announcement but clearly visible to all. The man flinched slightly.

"Oh god - is that what it looks like?" he said to nobody in particular.
"That's the stent, yes. Are you here to have yours out?"
"Yes" he says, looking somewhat pained. "What's it like?"
"Well" I went on jauntily "Once they've got the pliers in position and lined up the hospital's tug-o-war team..."

He blenched, and crossed his legs. His wife, however - clearly one whom, like most experienced wives, it is hard to fool with mere blokishness - took a more rational view.

"Well, he's standing up and smiling" she noted of me dryly, sending detectable waves of "I've had a baby, you pathetic worm" vibes in my direction, "So it can't be all that bad."
"You'll be fine, mate" I said, changing tack rapidly, and moved off towards the changing cubicle in an exagerratedly and utterly unnecessary bow-legged manner calculated to convey both extreme discomfort and immense, stiff-upper-lipped bravery.

Had I remembered to keep it up when I emerged shortly afterwards having clearly had no difficulty dressing or tying my shoe-laces, it might even have looked convincing.