Life Lessons With Morphine: The Beauty Of Pain

The Christmas season of 2006 would teach me a beautiful and important lesson in life: surgeonMorphine is the shit. Oh, and some other deep life stuff too. I was married at the time, and I  had recently gone under the poker for a kidney biopsy. That’s where a trigger happy surgeon jams a sterile needle into your back, tells you you’ll feel a little pinch, and you DO feel a “little pinch,” like Leatherface entered the newly made hole in your flank and went Tazmanian devil with a rancher chainsaw. He withdraws a slice of your kidney for inspection to figure out whether or not you have a lethal disease, and if your life is about to take a short detour into Expiration Date Forest.

All this piss and chips came about after a casual Christmas party. Upon arriving home, I took a leak in the hall bathroom. It’s a pretty routine activity for a young guy, you know, peeing. Except in this case, the clear-to-yellow drizzle which should have been raining from my dangly bits looked more like fizzy Pepsi, and it turned the whole toilet bowl a nice shade of burnt umber. This was before I was a nurse, so I didn’t really understand the seriousness of this particular presentation. My wife at the time, however, was savvy and took me to the doctor, who amongst other tests, ordered the kidney biopsy.

The night after the biopsy, we crashed in the usual fashion. Of a sudden, around 3 AM, I awakened with the electrifying urge to pee. I rushed to the bathroom, took the stance, and felt all the normal sensations of the urine about to exit my body. Except it didn’t. I felt it take a pit stop at some undisclosed location within my loins. A lump of fear began to form in my throat. I gingerly looked down at my best leg of three to observe a single, thick drop of dark blood ooze from the exit and descend into the toilet, dissolving red to pink in the water. It was then that I became keenly aware of a rapidly emerging dull pain in my left flank, getting worse by the minute.

I woke my wife, who rushed me to the ER in the longest car ride of my life. Jesus, the pain. Nausea was fast approaching. I got to the room, onto the gurney, and began dry emergencyheaving into the nearest trash can. My flank felt like an elephant was tap dancing on a hot railroad spike driven into my kidney. To this day, my nurse that night remains one of my unsung heroes. I wish I could recall his name. Apparently the doctor wanted to withhold pain medication. I remember overhearing my nurse having it out with the doctor in the hallway, advocating, yelling out my vital signs, going over my history, impatiently describing my sweating and dry heaving. Shortly after, my nurse marched with determination through the doorway holding a medication I’d never had before: morphine. He gave me a reassuring look as he pushed it into my IV.

Almost immediately I felt the pain start to dissipate as I passed into a hypnotic state of dreamy bliss which would rival even the tallest tales of reefer induced nonchalance. The sheer quixotic relief released me of all fucks given about that torturous pain, so much so that I hardly noticed the fireman’s hose of a 3-way foley catheter they shoved into my urethra to rid my bladder and kidneys of the blood clots invading my urinary tract. In my whole life, I’d never experienced such a degree of pain, followed by such an instant relief.

A few years later, I was mentoring a few challenged teens with less than stellar home lives, facing some tough times. In my quest to relate, I reflected on my own darkest times. My mind kept returning to that miserable night, that visceral pain, and its immediate relief. It occurred to me that I wouldn’t know the beauty of light, except that I had experienced darkness; that I couldn’t comprehend the fullness of happiness, except that I had experienced pain.

My friends, some of the sexiest, most wonderful, most beautiful people I’ve ever known
LeAnn and Mikeare those who have experienced unspeakable tragedy and emerged smiling on the other side. These are people who were acclimated to a higher level of harmony and peace  through the difficult channel of emotional pain. LeAnn tragically lost her son when he was just a toddler. Was she devastated? Absolutely. Does she still hurt? Sometimes. Does she spread love and positive mojo and serendipity wherever she’s present? You bet your ass she does.

In the Holy Bible, when the Apostle Paul wrote about “rejoicing in your suffering,” he didn’t mean when you’re hurting, heartbroken and beat down, to throw a frickin’ tea party with little miniature umbrella tequila drinks and unicorns shitting Skittles and rainbows. No. He meant hey, this is going to hurt like a sonofabitch, this is going to suck donkeys, and also, this is going to carve you into a better human being. 

Do you know what made that nurse and that morphine so therapeutic? Let me put it this way: If that nurse had shown up at my house on an average pain free day, popped me with an IV, and injected me with morphine, then sure, I would’ve felt a nice, relaxed high. And I would have had zero appreciation for the truly therapeutic effect of that medication.

Ummm, thanks for the high, I guess?

Look, the therapy, the alleviation, the ELEVATION, the sheer salutary tranquilization, could only be fully absorbed on account of the abhorrent and grisly pain that I endured. I myself have been through some tragic shit. And looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. Everything that I am, everything that I stand for, all the fruits of my moments of enlightenment, are the direct result of my times of grief and misfortune. It is pain that defines our humanity. It is pain that generates personal and spiritual growth. And without question, it is pain that makes us fucking gladiators. 

Stay the course, my friends. Keep your chin up. Find a reason to carry on. Let your pain and suffering remind you that you’re alive and that you mean something. I can with absolute confidence tell you that every single one of my points of enlightement was preceded by emotional pain. If you’re hurting, it means you’re dancing in the vicinity of metamorphosis. Cheers.

Photo creds in order of appearance:

Title photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Photo 1 by Marlon Lara on Unsplash

Photo 2 by monicore from Pexels

LeAnn (thank you)!

 

 

 

 

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