Near Yellow Mountain

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Romancing the Stone

If you have read past blogs, likely you will recall the mention of Philip, (our driver, culture guide and friend in Shanghai). Phillip was never a complainer but over a series of weeks a few years ago, I noticed he was constantly rubbing his lower back and seemed to have some level of pain each day. I asked him about it several times. Each query was rebuffed with a quick “mei wenti” or “no problem”. Finally when it was clear that the condition was getting worse,  I told Phillip he HAD to see a doctor. He grudgingly said he would call for an appointment.
A few days later Philip went to the doctor and was told he had a kidney stone. On the x-ray it appeared more like a kidney boulder. There was no chance for Phillip to pass it in the normal way. He needed surgery and even then, because of the size of the stone and how it had attached to the kidney wall, he was in danger of losing his kidney.  After consulting the doctors again, Phillip was told he would need to be at the Shanghai Kidney Hospital for a month. He wouldn’t be able to drive for almost six weeks. I told Philip not to worry about the time away, he had insurance through the company and he would still be paid his salary. We got a substitute driver while Philip was out. Breaking in a new driver made me appreciate Phillip more than ever. The nervous young substitute was not a very good driver, had no experience with foreigners and was not anxious to engage in conversation. Those six weeks seemed like a year.

The day of Phillip’s surgery, we kept in contact with the hospital for updates. Hours passed, we began to fear the worst. There was talk of removing the entire kidney but in the end the kidney was saved. We were anxious to see Philip and visited the hospital a few days later. My admin assistant took us to the Shanghai Kidney Hospital. Since the hospital does not serve foreigners, they don’t see many foreign families. Based on the attention we got, maybe we were the first foreign family to visit. We entered the hospital with a group of five – my wife, daughters and admin. By the time we crossed the lobby to enter the elevator, we had picked up several followers, when we exited the elevator it seemed the pied piper must have been in our group. The locals seemed very interested to find out who had the foreign visitor. We got to Philip’s room and saw a smiling Philip holding court with his seven roommates. I noticed Philip looking over my shoulder. Then he looked at me and asked who all the people behind us were. Well over a dozen of the curious throng we picked up on the way to Philip’s room decided to follow us in. I turned and motioned for them to leave and finally with some support from Phillip we able to convince them to find entertainment elsewhere.

Each bed in the room had a number and Philip introduced each of his roommates by their number and where they were from. He said: “Mr. # 2 is from Guangzhou and he owns a shipping company”. Philip seemed to like having a shipping company owner in his room. The rest were introduced in turn. It was clear that Philip did most of the talking in the room – whether or not he had visitors. Nobody seemed to mind.

Philip was eager to show us his new treasure so he raised the plastic bag holding the larger of the two stones. We were shocked at the size. After he left the hospital, Philip put the big stone in a jar and it became a conversation piece in the car.

Philip recovered quickly and was back at work as scheduled. The short separation had shown us how much Philip had become part of our family. We kept the stone in the car for several weeks. Philip’s stories always improved when he had a prop……..