Between a Stone and a Hard Place

Okay, I know… it’s supposed to be “…rock and a hard place.” But I took a little poetic license to describe my latest er… adventure.

And actually, in my case it’s two stones. Yes, the exciting fact is that we just discovered I have kidney stones. Two of ’em. One in each kidney (my doctor gave me no compliments for being so “balanced,” though.)

Backing up here… we just had our youngest daughter Bethy visit us during her vacation (see Donna’s blog for more on that… it was great!) We flew out to town on Palawan to meet her as she arrived. In fact, since our pilot was sick, we flew out a few days early. Then, as the poor guy wasn’t getting any better, we could not fly back into the tribe with Bethy as planned. So after a few days with her in Puerto Princesa, we decided to bring her up to Manila a few days before her flight so we could “do Manila” before she left.

Now what exactly does “do Manila,” entail, you ask? I mean, besides the usual, obvious things like “breathe pollution” and “fight traffic”? (I know… sounds like L.A., huh?!) Well, there are a lot of fun and interesting things to do here. It worked out that the Repertory Philippines (an excellent drama company) was putting on a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof.” So we took Bethy to that. That’s always a fun show…. (stomping dance: “Traditiooooooooooon, tradition!!”) It was very well done. One unexpected blessing was that the play was performed in the Greenbelt Theater. Christ’s Commission Fellowship (CCF), the church we attend whenever we’re in Manila used to meet in Greenbelt theater in the late 80’s. Back then, they had single service and we all fit in that theater. Now CCF is over 20,000 members with multiple services in Manila and many satellite churches planted all over the Philippines. God is good!

Bethy was also able to get out to Faith Academy, her high school alma mater. She was blessed to be able to connect with a couple of her favorite teachers that day.

Anyway, where was I… oh yeah, stones, rocks and hard places. Well, I’ve had some various kinds of discomfort for a few months now. I was planning to get it checked out whenever we got to Manila. So after we saw Bethy off, I saw my doctor the next day. She ordered some tests (what is it with doctors and teachers? Tests, tests, tests!) Well, the ultrasounds showed some interesting things. Not the usual interesting ultrasound things like “It’s a girl!” or “You have twins!” But the doctor saw a stone in each kidney. Hmmmm…. well, no wonder I was experiencing pain and such. Whenever these little crystalized bundles of joy would wiggle around, I would feel it. I’ve looked at these kinds of stones before under a microscope. They are not like little smooth pebbles. They look more like tiny shards of glass all Super-glued together. Apparently, this configuration has something to do with the lack of enjoyment most people feel as the stone moves from Point A to Point B.

Anyway, Stone #1 (on the right side) is over 1/3″ long. This is too big to pass normally no matter how much pain I might be in the mood for. So we have to take care of it right away. The doctor was explaining this to me delicately… he called it a “time bomb.” When I told him were we live (isolated jungle location with no roads and the extreme southern end of the least developed island in the Philippines), he said, “Oh Cool. Sure. Why don’t you go home and just see if anything happens?”


Actually his face got kind of pale and he repeated his subtle “time bomb” expression and said, “We have to deal with this right away.” If that stone were to get stuck and cause an obstruction, or to try valiantly (but vainly) to work its way downriver, I would be particularly regretful of not having dealt with it before the crisis. And if this happened while on Palawan, that would be a disaster. Even in the city, they could probably not deal with it. And if we were in the tribe… if the weather was bad, I could not even get flown out to the local hospital.

So, our plans have changed. We’re not heading home to Palawan tomorrow. Instead, I’m going to the hospital here in Manila for an ESWL. You know, an “Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy.” Apparently that means “Blast apart rocks from outside your body.” Cool, huh? Gives a whole new meaning to “Rock Music,” I guess. I particularly like the “extracorporeal” part where the doctor stays “outside your body.” I guess they use a sort of sonic jackhammer to focus shock waves on my poor lil’ right kidney. The intent is for the oversized, jagged stone to break up into a bunch of tiny jagged bits of stone, which can then find their way to some place besides the interior regions of my body. Let’s not think too much about that journey just now, though.

I asked the doctor about simply riding a jeepney that was playing excessively loud disco music (we have lots of those here.) This was actually a real concession on my part, as I passionately hate disco, but I figured it would be a lot cheaper, you know? Maybe one quick 7 peso ride and I’m good to go (sorry… bad pun.) He agreed that the music would be sufficiently LOUD, but told me that sadly, the sounds would not be focused directly enough on the stone. So… Lithotripsy at the hospital it is.

We’ll only do the larger stone tomorrow. Apparently it’s not good to do both kidneys at once. My doctor used his “time bomb” style of verbal subtlety yet again and told me, “Sometimes the shock waves cause the kidney to shut down. This is only temporary of course, and your other kidney will take over.” So we will blast (uh…. “tripsy,” I mean) the stone on the right side. Then, once we’ve verified that a)the stone is successfully obliterated and b)all the pieces, like Elvis, have “left the building,” and c)the right kidney still (or once again) is functioning normally, we will schedule the same procedure for left side.

Hey, I’ll admit I’m joking about this, but the truth is, I’m not really too terribly excited about it. Maybe it’s just me, but I mean, tomorrow’s Wednesday and I can think of lots of things that I would prefer to do on a Wednesday than an Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy. But on the other hand, I’m not really thrilled about letting this rogue mineral deposit linger in my body… you know, the “time bomb” thing. So being truly between a stone and a hard place, I’ll go with the hard place and try to get rid of the stone. On the other hand… (no wait, I’m back at Fiddler on the Roof again. Sorry)

And the Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways. For one thing, the timing. Here we were in Manila, unexpectedly, and able to see a doctor. On Saturday, Donna had just read a verse about the Lord “showing us where to walk” and “leading us forward on firm footing” and she prayed those very words for us. Then, yesterday it seemed that God was allowing our plans to be all messed up. Then we realized, “Oh. He’s answering our prayers and the new plans are his directions for us!”

And then, when we picked up the ultrasound print-outs and the lab results and headed to the doctor, I was reading them. My layman’s eye focused on something I considered very disturbing… something about some “cysts” on the liver and on one kidney. I was like, “Whoa…. cysts? You mean like cancer? In THERE?!!” So I gotta tell ya, when the doctor said those cysts were of no concern, the news about kidney stones was like no big deal! I was also so glad Donna was along with me in the taxi as I was reading (and misinterpreting) those test results, and then as we hustled from doctor to doctor to doctor to ECG and back to doctor… getting the procedure approved and scheduled. Definitely a good time to have your wife and best friend (same person) along!!

But reading those lab reports…. That got me to thinking about how often we are concerned about the wrong things. How often we fail to fix the problems that really matter. Not just physical health problems, but the meaningful ones, spiritual ones, relational ones.

Yes, Lord… lead us forward on firm footing. Show us what really matters and remove the harmful things from our lives and our hearts…

…Spiritual Shock Wave Lithotripsy.


About billdavisthoughts

From San Diego, CA. I've been a missionary and Bible translator in the Philippines for over 30 years and have travelled as a language learning consultant to 15 countries. I play piano and guitar. I write, read voraciously and love to work on word puzzles. Married for 35 years, we have two daughters and two grandchildren.
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