1) First of all, do not ever lend your children any climbing gear. You will never see it again. Furthermore, years later you will find yourself working for a living while they are out climbing rock faces and fending off goats and raccoons .
2) Try to be born into a family where several first-degree relatives have already lost their gallbladders.
3) If you have been taking betaine hydrochloride (proven to thin out bile in randomized, placebo-controlled trials) for the last 16 years, stop due to concerns that the betaine may be fueling the growth of intestinal bacteria which produce trimethylamine oxide, which in turn is known to fuel cardiovascular disease, which in turn is known to fuel sudden death. Also, lose some weight trying out a lectin-free diet even though you don’t have any reason to avoid lectins.
4) Embrace a vague suggestion by your oldest son that you, he and your youngest son should climb Pigeon Spire in Bugaboo Provincial Park, B.C. Realize that critical details will be withheld from you until it’s too late. These details will include: 2000-foot elevation gain in order to hike from parking lot to base camp, alpine start from base camp (waking at 3 AM) the next morning in order to safely ascend couloir and also be the first group on the Spire at sunrise, necessity for glacier travel with ropes, crampons and ice axes, and necessity to descend via a different glacier after getting up and down Pigeon Spire. This will all involve losing and then regaining one or two more thousand feet in order to arrive back at base camp after approximately 16-hours.
Tell yourself: no problem.
5) Fail to pay meticulous attention to hydration and nutrient intake during and after 16-hour jaunt and subsequent descent to parking lot next morning.
6) Resume lectin-free diet. Ignore pale stool several days after returning home.
7) Experience right upper quadrant pain two hours after lunch several more days later. Blame this pain on having tweaked something in your thoracic spine (conveniently located in your back) due to recent climbing trip. Go home and work out on your elliptical. Decide to eat large meal of lamb chops since pain disappears completely during workout.
8) Two hours after eating, experience several episodes of vomiting and more right upper quadrant pain. You will now be fully aware that you very likely have an issue with your gallbladder. Ignore this thought. Go to bed with dwindling, but tolerable right upper quadrant pain. Sleep soundly.
9) Awake next morning completely pain-free. Decide to completely expunge all details of the previous two days from your memory-banks.
10) Go to skydiving school on the weekend, then make three separate attempts to jump, but get shut out by smoke, wind and rain each time. Fret. Practice exits from plane in doorway of home office. Replay scenarios in which main chute doesn’t open. Mentally rehearse cutting away your main chute and deploying reserve chute. Invent various scenarios in which reserve chute doesn’t open. These include gliding at 120 mph and somehow landing, unharmed and Scully-like, on the Red Deer River, close to skydiving school. Laugh nervously. Fret some more.
11) Continue fretting, eating normally and working out. On the beautiful Friday morning prior to the long weekend, go back to skydiving school. Arrive three hours early, ruminate over impending jump, urinate copiously due to anticipation/nerves. Do not rehydrate. Drink coffee.
12) Jump out of perfectly good airplane. Land successfully, debrief, race back to Calgary and then accompany spouse to B.C. in order to get to hotel in Fernie for Saturday morning meeting. Drink coffee! And wine! Go to bed. Eat sausages and eggs for breakfast next morning! Go to meeting.
13) Experience right upper quadrant pain in the middle of meeting, two hours after breakfast. After meeting, return to Calgary in passenger seat, as pain is now significant enough to preclude driving. Ignore Nurse Practitioner spouse’s admonition to seek medical attention for probable cholycystitis (inflamed gallbladder), as pain eventually subsides.
14) Wake up, eat various things you probably shouldn’t eat, such as beef jerky and peanut butter. Experience more symptoms but later in day go for a run, as symptoms go away by lunchtime. Watch movie although pain returns that evening. Fight urge to throw up.
15) Go to bed but sit up most of night because pain increases with a vengeance, radiating from your back through to the pit of your stomach. Regret going to Med School as you now worry that you may have a pancreas problem in addition to a gallbladder problem.
16) Go to ER at 8 AM next morning. Medical Student palpates abdomen and finds exquisitely tender lump located under margin of liver. Student asks if you have ever noticed lump. Reply in the negative, adding that you don’t routinely palpate your own abdomen. Have bloodwork and ultrasound. Learn that your pancreas is fine.
17) Repeat history to senior Surgical Resident who has reviewed ultrasound and advises you that you need to part company with your gallbladder. He remains intrigued by the lump.
18) See on-call surgeon who reiterates need for surgery. Ask surgeon if problem was brought on by dehydration, sympathetic nervous system overdrive, exhaustion, negative calorie balance, etc. Ask about literature on dissolving gallstones via ingestion of ox bile plus/minus dandelion root extract. Allow surgeon to pat you on the shoulder as he shakes his head, eyes skyward. Agree to surgery.
19) Spend night in hospital. Learn that your room-mate and new friend Kevin has a gallstone more than 1″ in diameter. Do not give in to gallstone-envy, as you only have one small stone lurking in your gallbladder. Remember what Carrie Fisher said: “Resentment is like drinking dandelion root extract and waiting for the other person to pass a gallstone.” Or words to that effect. Suggest to Kevin that he have his stone bronzed after removal and mounted in suitable display trophy.
20) Depart for surgery at noon the next day. Inform nurse that the only way titanium wedding ring is coming off your hand is if the finger comes off along with the ring. Ignore her frown. Laugh as Kevin wishes you good luck with your sex-change operation as you are being wheeled out.
21) Have surgery. Return to room at 3 PM. Note that Kevin is missing, along with your tender lump noticed by trained medical professionals, but see that a woman is waiting in his cubicle. Ask if she is affiliated with Kevin. She will suspiciously ask you why you want to know. Relate sex-change operation comment. She will sigh, rolls her eyes and say, “Yes, that’s my husband.” Tell her they need to have a long talk when he returns.
22) Ask the nurse when you can go home and you will be told that you will be having a full meal and that you can go home after supper, if all goes well. Retreat to bed and work out how soon you can resume skydiving.
23) When Kevin returns ask how things went. Inform him that you went to the OR bearing both male and female sexual organs and have returned with two sets of male sexual organs. All within earshot will laugh. Kevin will laugh too, until his post-surgical pain cuts it short. Serves him right, you will think to yourself.
24) You leave the hospital at 7 PM, in the interim having decided that your headstone inscription will read:
“He was a lot smarter than he looked.
Despite having less common sense than a freshly-hatched sea urchin.
And trimethylamine oxide was the last thing he needed to be worrying about.