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      Paul met Debbie

      Recently, in April,  I suffered a renal colic. A kidney stone descended and became stuck between the kidney and the bladder. That is what we found out 3 weeks later, on making a CT scan. Pwcf are more prone to developing kidney stones due to the suppletion of calcium/vitamin D, taking large quantities of medication and the altered digestion and ion-balance in the body. There are also dietary habits that are conducive for kidney stones to appear, but none of these are applicable to me, so I guess the stone is indeed cf-related mostly.

      The stone is quite large, about 1 cm, and dense/hard. It is not likely that it can be broken up by external lithotripsy (shock waves), so it has to be removed with a ureteroscopy (URS) and possibly internal fragmentation with a laser. This is the preferred way of dealing with a kidney stone in 25% of cases.

      However, due to covid and severe cuts in the years before that, health care in the Netherlands has become increasingly congested. For many operations there are long waiting lists, and for mine as well. Currently there is a back log of 100.000 operations. Hospital staff is overworked, many are on sick leave because of this or (post) covid. So, I am “on” such a list unfortunately.

      The estimate is that it will take at least about three months before my stone can be removed surgically in the hospital where my cf-center is located. Fortunately, after the colic my stone seems to have settled in the urinary tract without causing a blockage and I have no complaints at the moment. If I get another pain attack, I have to report in the hospital ER and perhaps they will do the operation instantly by way of emergency surgery. Not looking forward to that.

      Being on a waiting list for an operation is a new experience for me. The operations I needed so far – mostly in the ENT-department – date from an earlier time when there was no covid and the hospitals had enough capacity to treat me within 2 weeks.

      For the mind, this is an unnatural situation. It assesses this as a potential threat, a dangerous situation  – both the waiting, the surgery at the end of it and the possible risk of contracting covid in the hospital, with infection rates rising every week at the moment – and the mind doesn’t like this at all.

      Give the mind time, and it will start thinking in abstractions. Mark Twain said about this: “I have known a great many troubles, most of which never happened”. And indeed, I notice the innate fight-or-flight response, which of course is both natural and useless in this case. This is mostly because the situation is created artificially. Because of the CT scan, there is knowledge of a potential danger that might come true. Because of the covid statistics, there is knowledge of a potential risk of getting infected. Because of medical experience, there is knowledge of potential risks and side effects of the operation. Without all this knowledge, all would be fine. Until a next renal colic would present itself, in which bodily reactions of pain and the possible worries of the mind would be completely natural and taken care of medically and immediately, without time and thoughts interfering.

      But as it is now, the situation is only theoretically, abstractly, dangerous. At present, there is nothing wrong. I am not in the hospital, at risk of covid. And the body functions fine, even with the stone in the tract, as long as it doesn’t obstruct the flow. The mind’s fight-or-flight response, alarmed by knowledge of these potential dangers only and confusing these for real and present danger, is not made for situations like these; it is completely uncalled for and not functional at all. It only causes mental distress.

      So, what to do? “Don’t just stand there, do something”, the mind says. “There is nothing wrong right now, leave me alone”, the body reports back. And in between these forces, there is being- here-now, going about life as usual, reporting: “Nothing happened at all, everything has been taken care of”.

      Practically, these conflicting messages result in moments of turmoil, where the protesting and worrying mind is temporarily too loud to ignore completely, and (fortunately longer) periods of tranquility, where there is trust, compliance and presence. In order to address some of the mind’s distress, Debbie and I took another covid-booster. Just in case we might find ourselves in the ER suddenly. And I talked with my cf-team and asked them to consult with the urologist – perhaps my surgery could be done sooner, before the autumn covid-wave hits us. However, it is uncertain if the hospital can accommodate this, for there are many patients on the list and they all feel a sense of urge. So for some time to come, this is what presents itself.

      Physically, I notice an increased need for rest and sleep. Apparently, the situation is draining some of my energy, which is understandable. I comply to this and fortunately, I can sleep very well. And, summer time having arrived, we are in nature as much as possible, which always has a benevolent effect on well being and is conducive for stillness. Meditation also helps to stay present, as is doing the things I like, such as writing, piano playing and just being together. Complying even takes the form of a certain curiosity. How will this all turn out? What does reality have in store? Because no matter my thoughts, even no matter my doings, things will happen according to what is supposed to happen. It has always turned out that way previously in my life. Because my doings and thinking are the happening as well. So they will matter and they will not matter at the same time. Reality will not be impressed by any of my activities or thoughts. And not by my complying either. Only, complying will get me through this with a lot more ease.

      So, the situation already now created an opportunity to practice compliance (again). And so I do – or to be more true: complying happens, one way or another. With presence and (Debbie’s) love, happenings will be more peaceful. And it will all turn out fine. “This too shall pass”, as the Persian-Sufi saying goes. The best thing to do when on a waiting list, is not to wait and go on with life as normal.

      Have a peaceful Sunday!


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