Chad the kidney stone

About a month ago my sister invited me to accompany her on one of her work trips. My sister, Marley, offered to pay for my plane ticket as my birthday present and to put me up in her hotel room. It was definitely an offer I couldn't refuse.

For the next month I was anxious and nervous and excited and guilt-ridden over the thought of taking a vacation without my son, Silas. It wouldn't be the first time I've gone somewhere without him. I've had a weekend on the Oregon Coast with friends, jaunts up to Portland and a quick trip to see my pregnant friend in Los Angeles, but this would be my first actual vacation without him. When I was growing up I don't remember my parents ever being away from the house overnight unless they were sick in the hospital. My parents were home with us after we came home from school, went camping with us in the summers and basically gave us kids every second of their time. I feel guilty, but I have basically come to terms with the fact that I am simply not that kind of a parent. My parents are clearly better people than I.

I resolved not to feel guilty and to revel in the fact that I would return from my vacation a better rested and happier mother. When my vacation started I spent long days lounging around the pool, going out to eat with my sister and reading mystery novels on the balcony of the hotel room.

About halfway through my vacation I was lying on a chair by the pool with my sister when I noticed that my back had started to hurt. No surprise there, my current schedule was obviously very physically intense, and I had probably pulled a muscle in my back. I told Marley I was going to lie down and take an Advil while she had dinner with her co-workers. Marley was a little concerned and offered to stay with me, but I laughed it off, and told her to have a good time. I limped off toward the elevator and alternated between lying in bed and trying to stretch out the muscles of my back.

I took as much Advil as the bottle advised, and then maybe one more. I couldn't get comfortable: My back was hurting more and more and when I tried to stand up my legs were shaking. By the time Marley came back an hour later I was curled up in the bed, sweating, crying and fantasizing about the kinds of medications only available in a hospital.

My sister, the same sister who faints when she sees a needle and gets queasy when she hears about someone else being sick, quickly took charge. She called the front desk for a wheelchair, had a taxi waiting for us in front of the hotel and found the closest urgent care clinic.

The urgent care clinic (located in the basement of a very ritzy resort) sent us on to the local emergency room. After a couple scans, some pain medication, and my very stressed out sister continually checking that I was still alive, I found out that I had a kidney stone.

A pretty small one, actually. The hospital sent me back to the hotel at 3 o'clock in the morning with some pain medication and a strainer for my urine. Marley slept for a few hours, and then woke up to go back for a full day of work. I went to work straining my pee and eventually found the little stone that I decided to name Chad.

Marley is a great sister, probably the best that anyone could ask for. She's been with me for every health crisis of my life, even the ones that happen on vacation. I just don't see her inviting me on any more of her trips.

Zoe Abel is home with Silas (and Chad) and contemplating whether to go visiting Marley this summer, or to give her a little break. You can contact Zoe at

Share This Story