A (not so) Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Burning Man

“I want you to drink and pee, drink and pee, and drink and pee,” Doctor V prescribed. It was a unique prescription. I pictured myself happily downing Oregon beer. Then he specified water.

My wife Peggy and I were on our way to Burning Man. I wasn’t feeling well and decided to drop by the Medford Medical Clinic before jumping off into the remote Nevada desert. My lower abdomen had developed the personality of a watermelon.

The Doctor ordered all the tests. I was to give blood, donate urine and expose my innards to x-rays. I dutifully ran around to be poked, prodded and pinched while Peggy waited patiently. (Don’t you just love alliteration?)

Anyway, before I knew it, I was back in Dr. V’s office sitting on a hard chair and memorizing a wall chart on intestines. I was approaching anal when the doctor appeared and pulled up my results. “Looks good, looks good, looks good,” he murmured as visions of Burning Man danced in my head.

That was just before he uttered “Uh-oh.” These are two of the worst words in a doctor’s vocabulary. They should be banned. My blood pressure shot up, sphincter clamped down and big toe developed gout.

Turns out my kidneys had joined a union and gone on strike. They were refusing to process the toxins out of my system. My body was becoming a hazardous waste site reportable to the EPA. “Drink and pee,” the Doc ordered. I was to come back on Monday.

The clock was ticking. I would miss the first and second day of Burning Man.

The Rogue Valley Medical Center was on my agenda Monday. My kidneys and bladder were to be scanned by an ultra-sound machine, a sonar-type device similar to what my brother-in-law Jim Hockett uses for finding fish and the Navy used for finding U-boats in WWII.

But first I had to prove myself worthy. A series of small cubicles lined the hallway leading into the hospital proper. I was to report to one. Before the magical machine scanned one centimeter of my body, I had to show I could pay. Hospitals, drug companies, lawyers, health insurers, doctors, nurses, therapists, technicians, clinicians, secretaries, janitors, business managers and at least a hundred other health care affiliates were depending on me. I was at the bottom of a very large and hungry food chain. “FEED ME,” they yelled in unison.

I boldly moved forward and whipped out my Oregon Driver’s license, Medicare Card, AARP Card, and United Health Care Insurance Parts B and D cards. I was a card-carrying member of the Baby Boomer Generation. Plus I had excellent credit. I was prime, well-aged beef. The gatekeeper smiled and gave her stamp of approval. “You are good for a year,” she told me.

The young technician in charge of ultra-sounds led me through a labyrinth of hallways to her inner sanctum, laid me out on the sacrificial table and begin lathering me with warm oil. I liked it. But I didn’t like what the scans showed, a vast ocean of pee and a small growth on the side of my bladder. She returned to it again and again. “I like to take lots of pictures,” she told me. Her diligence made me late.

“You missed your appointment,” the scowling receptionist at the Medford Clinic told me shortly afterwards. “You will have to reschedule.” I had apparently committed a grievous sin. But I was not properly repentant. I scowled back.

“Your office made the appointments,” I pointed out. “The hospital made me late and the technician told me she was in contact with Doctor V. I am leaving town tomorrow.”

The room temperature dropped several degrees. “I’ll check with the Doctor,” she said. Each word was coated with ice.

She came back all smiles. “You are going to Burning Man,” she exclaimed. I was no longer just a crotchety old guy whining about his afflictions. I was a crotchety old guy going to Burning Man. I was ‘cool.’ “The Doctor says he needs you to take another blood test. He will call you later with the results.”

It was his nurse who called.

“You have Acute Kidney Failure. The Doctor recommends that you skip Burning Man.” I was to be handed off to a specialist.

I didn’t have a clue what Acute Kidney Failure meant but it definitely didn’t sound like something I wanted to be caught with in the Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada. We cancelled our adventure.

Next up: Dr. M. draws a picture. The kidneys are connected to the bladder and the bladder’s connected to the prostate and the prostate’s connected to the well, um… you get the idea.

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