Kidney Stones on Route 66

Melissa Stagnaro

I hear “kidney stones” and I immediately think of John Miras.

John features prominently in a lot of stories from both my Manhattan College days, as well as the years which followed when we both lived in the DC area. I could blog about our combined exploits all day – and already have on more than one occasion – but for this installment I will focus on the kidney stones which have been an on-going medical concern for as long as I’ve known him

Now kidney stones are tiny crystalline masses which form in the kidneys, which can cause excruciating pain. We were in college the first time I remember hearing about John’s kidney woes. It was a triumphant tale, of him returning from the bathroom of one drinking establishment or another with the offending stone in his upraised hand.

Yes, he passed the sharp little sucker at a bar, while he was out with his friends on St. Pat’s or some other drinking holiday. And yes, he went into the urinal after it, to be able to provide proof of his accomplishments to his fellow revelers.

Oh, how I wish I’d been there to see that.

Not, however, to shake his hand.

This was not, unfortunately, the most notable of John’s kidney stone exploits.

I’ve mentioned before how shortly after graduating from college, I migrated south of the Mason Dixon line and settled in Northern Virginia. About a year after I made the move, John too chose to relocate to our nation’s capital.

He tried a couple of housing scenarios – including a week or two of sleeping on the floor at the Arlington house I shared with a couple of friends, including another college friend of ours, Melissa Joy – before settling into a group house in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of northwest DC.

As a side note, you might be interested to know that among his possessions on that move, as it had been for every one prior, was a tiny glass vial containing the kidney stone he had “passed” in that bar all those years before.

While I’m firmly convinced he made the move just to be closer to me, his excuse was that he’d found a job with the Washington City Paper. Where he put his English and History degrees to less-than-optimal use selling what we always referred to as sex ads. (I think his official title was advertising sales rep, but his client list seemed heavier on strip clubs and escort services than anything else.)

The job didn’t really jive with John’s conservative, Catholic upbringing. So we figured it was only a matter of time before (his mother’s prayers were answered and) he moved on to bigger and hopefully better things. But that isn’t to say we weren’t all a little shocked when he traded in his City Paper gig for a position with Pat Buchanan’s 2000 presidential campaign.

And no, that wasn’t some euphemism for rehab. Or incarceration.

None of us were quite sure how to respond to this right-wing bombshell, but we supported John in his decision. Mostly because we didn’t want to see him selling sex ads forever. And, thankfully, he was under no illusion that any of us would actually vote for the guy.

John’s role with the ill-fated campaign was an ambiguous one, and he started his new job without a clearly defined idea of what he would be doing. Still, he was a little shocked when he learned, just a few days on the job, that he would be expected to go to North Carolina for an unspecified length of time. Something to do with supervising the local efforts to gather the signatures required to get Buchanan on the state’s primary ballot, I think. Frankly, John wasn’t so sure either. Nor, as I mentioned, was he sure how long he’d be there.

Determined to be prepared for any eventuality, on the morning of his planned departure, John loaded his car with basically every stitch of clothing he owned and set off from his DC neighborhood toward the campaign headquarters in, if I recall correctly, Tyson’s Corner.

We’d had a little send off dinner the night before, wishing him well on his travels. And were expecting to hear from him once he got to North Carolina.

As it turned out, we heard from him sooner than we’d anticipated.

I was working in Arlington at the time, as a market research analyst for one of the area’s many trade associations, and was invariably knee-deep in data  when the phone rang. It was Melissa, and I could tell from her voice that something was wrong.

She’d gotten a call from John, she told me, relaying the rather disjointed tale he’d told her about being taken to a local hospital. It seems he’d been found unconscious on the side of 66, after he had apparently pulled over. Why he had gotten out of his car, no one was sure, but the law enforcement officer who found him thought that perhaps he had been trying to go for help when he lost consciousness. That’s all she knew.

I raced to the hospital, of course. When I got there, John was sitting in chair so doped up he looked at me for a full minute before recognition dawned that I was someone he knew. When they released him into my care, the doctor told me they’d believed he’d had a kidney stone attack while driving. Thankfully, he’d been able to pull over before passing out. Which was amazing, considering he didn’t remember any of it. (Even before they gave him the drugs.)

His car (loaded with most of his earthly possessions) had been towed to an impound lot near Reagan National Airport. One I was, unfortunately, familiar with.

Yes, Mom, I should have seen the no parking sign. But I don’t need the lecture. I think the $350 I had to pay was penance enough.

John was obviously in no shape to retrieve his car quite yet, so I took him back to my house to recuperate for a bit after picking up his prescriptions. A few hours, and some sustenance later, we got his car out of hock. Despite my protestations, he insisted on going home to Mount Pleasant that night.

He made it home without incident, I’m happy to say, but was too tired upon arrival to cart all of his things back inside. Deciding they’d be safe for a few hours, he went inside to get some rest.

Unfortunately, they weren’t. Safe, that is. At some point during the night, some intrepid thief made off with the contents of his car. Which you’ll remember included 99 percent of his wardrobe.

All John was left with was the suit he’d worn to work that day, and the “rancid” t-shirt he’d had made to torture me back in college.

Once John passed the offending stone – and no doubt added it to his collection – we set about replenishing his closet.

He’s probably added a few more to his collection in the ten years which have passed (no pun intended) since then. But no matter how excruciating they were in their own right, they couldn’t help but pale in comparison in terms of storytelling value.

And knowing John, he probably has entertained many with the tale.

Not that I can talk, of course, because so have I.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

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