Old Man Fletcher is almost 41. Getting older hurts, especially when it involves passing a kidney stone in the middle of the desert.
The scene of the attack – a cave in the wall
One morning Brendan woke up complaining of a pain in his lower back. He thought maybe he’d slept funny, or packed his backpack poorly the day before. Neither of us paid it much mind.
The pain intensified and progressed to nausea, repeated vomiting, sharp internal knife-thrusts, and eventually, anguished cries for help.
Apart from Brendan’s yelps disturbing her peace, Emma was enjoying yet another fine desert sunrise. But once she’d finished her morning cuppa she figured she should do something to lend a hand. She dialed up International SOS – a company that provides 24-hour medical advice and translation services for their members (thankfully, that includes us). One other thing they do is organise local ambulance services and even emergency evacuations when needed.
It didn’t take long to get a phone diagnosis of kidney stones, which eased our minds if not Brendan’s pain. Despite the difficulty of explaining where we were (um, about three kilometres past the big petrol station where the wall crosses the highway) there was an ambulance parked on the nearest drivable road within an hour. Two attendants in white uniforms hopped the barbed-wire fence and followed Emma to the cave.
It all seemed a bit over the top for a kidney stone, but we were grateful nonetheless (as it turned out, the ambulance was cheaper than a cab would have been – and cabs are cheap in China).
Good morning sunshine – Brendan at Shandan Hospital
The ambulance sped to Shandan Hospital where Brendan was given an ultrasound. He had a 4 mm stone, a smallish one, which had passed to his bladder while the ambulance was on its way, greatly diminishing the pain. By noon he was dismissed from hospital, though not without some haggling. The doctors had wanted to keep him for three days on an IV drip, but with some persuasion and the assistance of our bilingual (English and Chinese-speaking) doctor at International SOS, they let us go.