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170213 February 13, 2017


    These photos were posted on Facebook by Polly Gurley Redd (LHS '66), after Paulette Reddick Turner (LHS '66) spoke to the current student body of Lee and was interviewed for the school system on the history of being the first black student at Lee High  local media. They presented her with two awards, a "Paulette Reddick Ambassador of Change Award" that they will award to a senior each year and a cool poster that will hang in the history department.

Lunch with friends at Gibson's BBQ . Paulette Reddick Turner, Chris Grant McMahon, Cathy Tribble, (Ginger Gambrell Treglown, Gloria Schmidt, Barbara DeHaye), Polly Gurley Redd.

In the Devil’s Grip
Rainer Klauss
LHS '64

    In August last year, a CT scan revealed that I had a kidney stone in my right kidney. The urologist told me it was about the size of the tip of a ball point pen. “That ought to pass without trouble,” he said. He should have added: “If it doesn’t get any bigger.” If a stone proves to be large upon detection and is gauged to be too big to make the passage from the kidney to the bladder, measures are taken to remove or fragment it. Mine was small, so it was just a matter of waiting. There is no way to predict when kidney stones will embark on their potentially troublesome voyage to the outside world.

    Unfortunately, mine grew bigger and then decided to ramble. Late Wednesday morning on February 1 (Gudrun had greeted me at breakfast with a cheery “Happy February!”), I noticed a pain in the lower right side of my back. Okay, we’re all used to unexplained pains at our age, so I thought this was just a transitory event. It persisted and got stronger, however. Then the light bulb went on. Hey, remember that kidney stone, Rainer? Both my in-law and Skip Cook have detailed their kidney stone misad-ventures, so I had a strong suspicion about what must be happening.  I toughed it out for another hour as the pain mounted, but then decided I needed to find out what was going on for sure. Shortly before 1 o’clock, Gudrun and I headed to the ER at Madison Hospital.

    Although I was too anxious and miserable to pay much attention to the older, dapper gentleman who greeted us after we passed through the revolving door at the ER, I did appreciate his calm and friendly direction: “Sir, you just have to go to that desk over there to get checked in.” 

    We followed his lead and began the long ER experience. It’s flu season, and even in the early afternoon, the spacious, light-filled room was packed with folks suffering from that malady, as well as a large population of people with other medical emergencies.

    I went through triage quickly, but that’s just the second formal step in the pro-cess of getting to learn what ails you. I was on the way to pain level 5 by then. The good news: the television sets were turned down low.

    After a while, I felt thirsty; I knew I would need extra fluid to push the torturous kidney stone out of the ureter.  Gudrun accompanied me to the snack alcove. I fed a machine a dollar for a bottle of water, and then it flashed the message that an additional fifty cents were required. Neither one of us had the change. I pressed the button for the return of my bill several times, but no bill was forthcoming. A young lady, probably a custodian, saw our problem, mentioned that the machines sometimes malfunctioned, and told us we needed to notify the man standing at the entrance. 

    I returned to my seat, and Gudrun went to deliver the message. The pain was climbing, and I was beginning to feel nauseous. 

    “Klauss!” A nurse called me to one of the front rooms, but it was only to give blood samples. Back outside to the chamber of woe, but carrying a barf bag—just in case.

    An hour later: “Klauss!” This time I underwent a CT scan and x-ray. It hurt to move (actually, sitting as still as I could wasn’t any better), the nausea returned, but I didn’t toss my cookies. Gudrun periodically reminded me to “breathe.”

    Since I had arrived at the ER, the pain level had climbed to 8 (if the stone had been a little bigger, I might have experienced a 10). I’d never felt such misery for so long. Fully acknowledging my pain, Gudrun nevertheless told me something that was profound: that the pain was probably as close as I would ever get to experiencing and understanding the agonies of childbirth. It was an intimate moment, and its truth lifted, for a moment, the agony I felt. I know, though, that the labors of childbirth can last a lot longer than the pain I endured.

    While we were sitting there waiting for the summons to the final examination room in the ER--where the truth would be revealed-- we noticed that a technician was working on the drink machine. After a few minutes, the custodian approached and returned my dollar. Then the doorkeeper came over to apologize. As I looked up at him, I suddenly realized that I recognized him—just from the face at first, and then I saw the name tag that validated my perception.  I had to speak.

    “Jim Shelton, I’m Rainer Klauss. We graduated from Lee together.”

    He was taken aback for a moment. We had hardly known each other in high school, and that greeting may actually have been the first time I ever spoke to him. We were on different tracks back then. I’m fairly sure he didn’t recognize me at all, and I probably said my name too fast for him to even pick it up, but memories from long ago seemed to come back to him--faintly but unmistakably. We reminisced for a few minutes. He reminded me that he was known as “Milton” in our Lee days. Then he asked why I was there. He wished me well and told me I knew right where he was if I needed any help. It was an unusual reunion, to be sure, but it was good medicine.  Jim’s sincere empathy and the example of his service at the hospital lifted my spirits.

    We spoke again when I was called to the front desk later to check my vital signs again. I was told then that as soon as a few more people were discharged, I would be brought to an examination room. Jim was nearby and not busy as I headed back to my seat, and I told him I remembered that his close friends knew him as “Goose.” He smiled. “Yeah, CE Wynn and Walter Thomas, and a few others called me that.” 

    At 5:30, Gudrun and I were finally ushered to an exam room. A friendly young doctor came in and told me that the CT scan had revealed that a 4 millimeter kidney stone was transiting the narrowest part of my right ureter. “That’s what is causing you all the pain, Mr. Klauss.” The thing is: I wasn’t feeling much pain anymore. I figure that between the time the CT scan located the stone and its size so precisely, and the time that I got to the exam room (about 2.5 hours later), the stone had passed from the ureter into the bladder. I was offered various pain-killers, but all of them except ibuprofen produce a serious side effect in me. The doctor didn’t push the issue, wished me well, and gave me instructions to follow-up with my urologist. The nurse gave me two large Motrins and an anti-nausea pill. 

    I shook hands with Jim on the way out, and Gudrun and I got back home in time to watch most of “Jeopardy.” Five hours had elapsed.

    A mystery remained: where was the stone and when would it make its next ap-pearance?

    As part of this, I want to acknowledge the continuing friendship and counsel of John Drummond. As well as being a bandmate at Lee, a fellow Auburn Tiger, and my doctor in Atlanta for many years, he also unknowingly contributed a valuable element to this essay. A message from him (with a few words in German to encourage me) in response to an e-mail about my troubles contained the interesting lore that among old country doctors a kidney stone attack was known as the “Devil’s grip.” I bear witness to the aptness of that appellation.

    Epilogue: In spite of numerous entreaties (and lots of water), the kidney stone did not accept the necessity that we must go our separate way. It hid for a week. Yes-terday (Wednesday the 8th), in the follow-up appointment with the urologist, the stone couldn’t even be located via x-ray. But, as the doctor  explained, that might be because the stone was probably crystallized uric acid and stardust and wouldn’t show up on an x-ray. The remote possibility existed that the stone was still in the ureter—even though I was painfree. He and I agreed that it was time to retrieve it. It was surgically removed—from the bladder—this Thursday (the 9th) with a minor outpatient procedure. In this case, parting was not “such sweet sorrow.”

        Memphis, TN - Rainer’s story this week hits very close to home with me. When talking about my own experience with kidney stones, I usually tell people, "At first I was afraid I was going to die, and then after a while I was afraid I wasn't going to!"

    I challenge any of you to come up with a manner in which your life was affected more by the presence of a kidney stone than mine was.

    I take you back to 1968 when I first entered the Air Force with plans to be a fighter pilot. After my failed attempt at pilot training in the USAF, I was sent to earn a different set of wings – those of a navigator. It was a nine month school at Mather AFB, in Sacramento, California, and upon graduation I continued my training by attending a six-month school to become an electronic warfare officer. In the latter stages of that school I was subjected to the same series of pain and suffering shared by Rainer, with mine starting out with as an extreme abdominal pain followed by severe nausea. I went to the emergency room only to be told it was a bad case of a stomach bug and sent home. At midnight I went back in and was admitted to a multi-occupant ward overnight. I lay awake all night with no one even offering me an aspirin much less a heavier medication.

    The next morning I experience my first contact with a strong medication – a shot of Demerol. Almost instantly the pain went away and I collapsed into a blissful state for many hours with a smile on my face. Later in the day I was subjected to the first of many intravenous pyelograms (IVP), an X-ray test that provides pictures of the urinary tract, which consists of the kidneys, the bladder, the ureters, and the urethra. It showed I had a kidney stone. However, just as fast as it came, the pain went away and I was eventually sent home from the hospital to await a natural passing of the stone.

    That was the first stage of the redirection of my Air Force future. I was washed back a class in the electronic warfare training and out of the class where I had a great chance of being assigned to the back seat of an F-4 Phantom fighter jet. The class in which I was then a member consisted of eight officers, and when the choice of aircraft came down to the class, all eight of us were assigned to B-52 bombers – the least attractive assignment possible at the time.

Still, the air war in Vietnam was still going on, and I was anxious to do my part, knowing the future promotions would be highly influenced by combat time and a war record. I then moved to Castle AFB, in Merced, California, for initial B-52 crew training. One night, without warning, the kidney stone reappeared, sending me once again to the emergency room, and getting me grounded from flying for three weeks.

    I finally finished the training and arrived at my first real duty station, Carswell AFB, Texas. By that time, I had been in the Air Force for two and a half years, all in training and never flown an operational mission. I had to upgrade to the model of B-52 flown by the Carswell crews, which should have been accomplished in six to eight flights, but after my third upgrade mission, I once again had an attack of kidney stones. This time I was put in the hospital and after a weekend of pain, I underwent surgery to have the stone removed. This was before the days of non-surgical procedures, leaving me with an eight inch abdominal scare and a six-week recovery period. (My war wound.) As an aside, when I was recovering from my surgery, I was given shots of morphine. Wow, what a high. Every so often the nurse would come around and offer me another shot which I would accept. It finally hit me I was looking forward to the morphine, and it scared me to think I was getting addicted to it I told me no more, no matter what pain I was in. It was easy to see how people could be hooked onto such strong drugs.

    I thought that once the stone was removed I would have a short recovery time then finish my air crew training. Wrong! The flight surgeon reported I had bi-lateral kidney stones, meaning one in each kidney, and with such a medical history I was permanently grounded from flight duty. By then I had already pinned on my Captain’s bars and had still not done the least bit of real duties as an Air Force officer – all I had done was training for a job I was now incapable of performing.

    Since I could no longer serve as an air crew member, I was asked what I would like to do instead. (Nice of them.) I elected to become an Intelligence Officer and was transferred (I thought) to the wing intelligence office. Finally I was earning my pay, briefing air crews and working on war plans. Three months later I was called and told the Air Force had a critical shortage of Electronic Warfare Officers (EW0), and I could not be an Intelligence Officer, I would instead be assigned to the Wing Penetration Aids Office – the staff for the entire wing EWOs. My assignment as a brand new Captain to that office allowed a flight capable officer to return to crew duty, and a senior Lieutenant Colonel had to give up his cushiony and hard-earned staff job and go back onto a standard crew. (During the bombing campaign against Hanoi later that year he was shot down and became a prisoner of war, but survived.) I always wondered if he was assigned to the crew position for which I was training. I hated the man I was working for and several times called the Military Personnel Center volunteering for Vietnam, only to be told it was not possible since I was grounded.

    In February of 1972 I received a call at midnight ordering me to report to the base at 0800 the next morning and I would be told where I was going when I reported. The next day I headed to Guam for a six-month assignment in support of the bombing missions being flown from there. Three months after returning from Guam, I received another phone call with the news of another six-month temporary assignment to Guam. When I signed in to the office I was told to pick out a day to fly, since each staff officer was authorized to fly one combat mission each month to earn combat pay and check the air crew procedures in place. So I did and even though officially grounded I was finally able to fly real combat missions in a B-52.

    After two years I was finally able to convince the medical staff that all my instances with kidney stones had been in my right side and not b-lateral, and was returned to flying duty. By then my career had been so tanked I could never again equally compete with my fellow fliers for promotions.

    I will always wonder how my career, and my life, would have been different had I never had the kidney stones. Would I have gotten my F-4 assignment and been shot down? Would I have been assigned to the crew the Lieutenant Colonel was placed on and been shot down, killed, or taken POW instead of him? Where would I have ended up had I stayed a part of a combat crew? Would I have been promoted to higher ranks, moved to different locations, never become interested in computers and earn my degree in Information Systems Management? Would it have affected my marriage and my daughter? Would I have never written the 10 books on B-52s I have?

    All these questions will never be answered, but I know my entire path in life was altered because of a tiny bit of calcium, no larger than a pin head. God moves in mysterious directions.


From Our Mailbox 


Christmas get together at Pat Mullins (in back at head of table). To her right is Diana and Adonna across table is Cookie and Dianne. All from  LHS Class of 1964. Nothing like a visit with good friends.

Subject:    Last Week's Picture

Dianne Hughey McClure

LHS '64


    I think someone wanted last names on our picture probably to late for this one but maybe next one. They are Pat Mullins, Diana Mae, Adonna Johnson,  Cookie Pocus, Dianne Hughey.

Subject:    Last Week's Cheerleader Picture
Tim Lull
LHS '67

Third cheerleader from the left was Sandy Smith (Who married Larry Ray ’65) Barbara’s correct spelling of last name is Rousseau



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