How a stone stole Christmas

ALTERNATIVE NATIVITY: This yuletide tale has all the familiar elements; a dark night, a strange city and a couple fleeing into the unknown, but a very different outcome.
ALTERNATIVE NATIVITY: This yuletide tale has all the familiar elements; a dark night, a strange city and a couple fleeing into the unknown, but a very different outcome.

Ever had a kidney stone?

Ever spent Christmas in a hospital emergency department?

You may or may not have read this column two weeks ago, where I basked in the anticipation of Christmas.

It will be in Melbourne, I said.

There will be pastries and coffee, I said.

Well, there was one pastry and a piccolo latte.

There were Christmas Eve prawns and presents and flying children.

Christmas Day? At 10pm I woke, came downstairs, found Santa and asked him to Google the nearest hospital emergency department.

Santa, who had a very long day, looked up from his crossword and said: “Really? Are you sure?”

Note to Santa: Not since I was in labour with son-of-Santa had I been more sure.

Like another Christmas movie we were Home Alone, housesitting for our children who’d flown to New Zealand in the wee hours of Christmas.

Good news - we had the keys to their car, a fashionably ‘vintage’ diesel VW.

Bad news - we couldn’t find the bloody headlight switch.

Our Google search had yielded The Alfred as our nearest hospital, and in our daughter’s glove box we found a manual where on page 39, we discovered the headlights were knob-operated to the right-hand-side of the steering wheel. (Note to self: driverless cars are looking good).

Santa stayed calm while I fluctuated somewhere between “should have called an ambulance” and insane elderly Spanish woman about to give birth to Mick Jagger.

I love a good Christmas movie, but our little road trip to The Alfred was reminiscent of the Steve Martin Thanksgiving classic,  Planes, Trains and Automobiles meets Will Ferrell’s Elf … me being an angry elf, with a calm optimist driving the sleigh.

We only got lost once.

Remember it was 10pm, Christmas night.

All was calm.

All was bright.

We pulled over and asked a smiling young man with no shoes for directions.

I guess we were desperate and I’m guessing he was ripped, stoned, off his face or just very happily confused.

“Sorry, no idea”.

I recall he tripped, smiled and ran away.

Come to think of it, he was dripping wet, suggesting a little late-night swim.

But it was Christmas night, and while we weren’t on 34th Street, a miracle happened.

We looked up and we were less than 100 metres from the emergency department’s front door; confirming our happy stranger was totally trashed.

Now here’s the serious bit: 18 months back, late at night, I took my husband to the emergency department of the Launceston General Hospital where his blood pressure was taken through the reception window, we were told they “were too busy to triage” and to call the home doctor.

Have things improved for the long-suffering LGH team?

The Alfred was a well-oiled and properly-resourced machine of a hospital. At 2.28am, Boxing Day, a six-millimetre kidney stone was located by CT scan.

The team concluded a conservative approach with appropriate pain management was required and to see my Launceston urologist.

We left at 8am, me with enough drugs to keep Mick Jagger, Keith and the whole band quiet, and poor old Santa totally knackered.

For Christmas, I’d given Santa a ticket to day one of the Australia versus England cricket test.

He was excited to see the bowling of the first ball from the awesome seat I’d snared at ground level.

Instead, prescriptions were filled, cups of tea made and he had a quiet day of turkey leftovers in front of the tele.

This morning, Mick Jagger is every bit Jumpin Jack, we’re back in Launceston and I’m booked for surgery.