There's nothing like a major medical incident to liven up the trip of a lifetime. On the Tuesday before our (Saturday) flight, the passport dilemma moved from our hands into the reassuring grasp of Kirsten Gillibrand. Robin and I crossed our fingers, prayed that my required document would arrive on time, and figured the calamity was more or less over. We were right, but only because another, loftier one arose the very next evening.
While guiding the river Tuesday, I hadn't felt well. I needed to urinate often; and for the first time ever actually stopped my raft so I could get out and find a tree. I felt more peculiar than a simple bladder glitch, but I couldn't quite place what the problem was: similar in some ways to a urinary tract infection, but not enough to confidently diagnose it as such. I wasn't comfortable, did feel a bit 'off', but I managed to get down the river.
Wednesday evening we came home from church and I made a phone call. Only a few minutes into it, I started to have sharp pains in my nether regions, so to speak. They rapidly intensified, and I finally had to ask Robin to drive me to the hospital. So we're sitting in the ER three days before our flight, wondering whether I'll be alive or not. The pain was very intense shortly after leaving home, but subsided quite a bit by the time we arrived at the hospital. It was almost gone before I was examined. We spent the night in a holding room, with an occasional run to for X-rays and an MRI. In the wee hours, a PA came in to give me the diagnosis: I had two kidney stones. He said they would have to put a stint in and get them. I asked him whether the trip was possible, he said if the operation happened that day then I would probably be healthy enough to go.
As morning arrived, a urologist came in and told me pretty much the exact opposite diagnosis: I did not have kidney stones; if I had had them they were passed now and I was fine to go without any further medical care. I certainly felt fine by this time, so I didn't question the conflicting conclusions. I do remember however, mentioning to someone at my bedside afterward that what concerned me most was the possibility of the urologist being wrong. I would ruefully remember this later.
We drove straight from the hospital to the airport to pick up our daughter, after which we went out to eat dinner. Before we finished, I had another attack. It was bad, but by the time we were passing the hospital it was over, and I obstinately refused to go through the same inconclusive song and dance as the night before.
The next day, Friday, was uneventful. My passport arrived and we began packing for our trip; though we didn't pack much because we were both exhausted from the previous days' antics. That left Saturday morning for packing, not a good plan, but given the circumstances the best we could do. So of course, in the midst of doing this on Saturday morning, I had another bout of excruciating pain. This one lasted for a couple hours, but by now I decided it would pass again; in either case I wasn't going to give up on this trip unless it killed me. I staggered away from the house into the woods so Robin wouldn't see or hear the shenanigans as I writhed in agony on the ground. The pain did pass, though not in time to allow a proper packing job. I hurriedly threw stuff into a backpack, a duffel bag, and one piece of rolling luggage. Robin gathered her own bags, everything was heaped in our car, and we set off a bit late but optimistically for Boston.
Our route involved dropping the car off at a friend's house, hitching a lift to the ferry in Braintree, and thence on to the Boston airport, our plane, and the Big Wide World beyond. My little episode, along with the usual strangeness of driving in Massachusetts put us behind the eight ball a bit: we barely made the ferry. We did make it however, and once firmly ensconced onboard, our pace placed in other hands, we could relax a bit. Robin wasn't having much of that, though. The specter of my malady hung heavy. She loves to travel, it's the closest any interest of hers comes to my obsession with climbing; and she was not confident that we would actually get our feet off the ground this time.
The rest of the stateside affair went flawlessly, however. We made it to the airport with time to take pictures, checked our luggage, ran the security gauntlet, and finally boarded our Iceland Airways flight. I had desperate visions of a bout with pain causing an uproar on the plane, stopping the flight midway down the runway or some other embarrassing scenario, but everything went well. We flew away from the sunset toward the distant shores of Iceland, the first stop of our adventure.