Article #4 Profile

An unfortunate chain of events began one morning when Matt Gordon woke up with intense abdominal pain. In his senior year of high school and enrolled in mostly AP classes, this already presented an issue, though a manageable one. “You miss a few days of AP class and you’re already in for a few issues,” he explains, though he was in enough pain to warrant this setback for a day or two.

The pain didn’t pass as he hoped it would, and by the next morning was accompanied by nausea. At roughly 5 AM on a Tuesday night, Matt was in an Emergency Room at a local hospital, where he was diagnosed with kidney stones.

This was nothing too unusual, especially for a teenager who drank around two cups of coffee a day and had a history of calcium deposit kidney stones in his family, so the usual treatment was offered to him. He was given some medication to help and told to wait a few days for the stones to pass.

The next few days were excruciating. “It felt like someone was just stabbing my stomach area,” Matt describes, his voice conveying the memory of intense pain, and after no apparent progress was made another trip to the ER became necessary.

After another examination, it was quickly found out that the situation was more serious than previously thought. Matt’s kidney stones were stuck in his ureters, and showed no signs of passing on their own. To make matters worse, the hospital’s surgeon refused to operate on patients under the age of 18, so Matt was taken to a hospital in Tampa via ambulance.

Though the situation might seem distressing from an outside perspective, it wasn’t all bad. As Matt describes it, “I was on some kickass painkillers. That was fun.” A day later ultrasound tests were conducted and he was scheduled for surgery. The surgery process involved no incisions, and instead relied on breaking the kidney stones apart with lasers, “like a laser light show.”

After the surgery, stents were placed in Matt’s ureters to prevent further complications. This is where the real trouble starts. Despite the fact that everyone has slightly different sizes of ureters, the stents that are made for them are one size fits all. Because of this, and because Matt is a fairly small guy, the stents which should have been unobtrusive ended up poking into his bladder and kidneys and causing him constant pain which rendered him essentially bedridden for several months until his recovery completed.

“I felt like I was 90 years old,” Matt recalls, “I was on a different planet because of the meds. The muscle relaxers they gave me made me feel like a zombie.”

As his senior year went on, he found himself unable to keep up with his demanding classes. “I couldn’t do anything,” he says, explaining that even after the stents were out he had to wean himself off the heavy painkillers he had been taking. “I didn’t feel like a person. I was weak, I was drained, I had issues focusing. It was not a fun time.”

Though he tried to catch up on what he had missed once he was capable of returning to school, he had missed the fundamentals of several classes and was unable to participate in the senior theater production his school was presenting. “I kinda lost out on a lot of my senior year stuff.”

Through hard work he managed to recover most of this, though one class in particular stood out as nearly impossible for him to catch up in: AP Microeconomics, a required credit in his school. The course was very lecture heavy and the teacher was infamous throughout the school for not repeating information and only teaching as he went along. “I was sinking, and he was not there to even try teaching me,” Matt says, “and in the end I failed the course.”

In order to graduate on time with the rest of his class he was presented with an ultimatum from his high school. He had to complete an online course in Microeconomics in under a week or do summer school, which just wasn’t an option for him.

In the end he managed to complete the online course in two days, working from 5 AM until midnight with very few interruptions. “It was amazing,” he says, reaching the punchline to a dark joke, “It was like I actually had instruction.”

With an updated B in the class he had failed just weeks before, Matt managed to graduate on time with the rest of his class despite all that had happened that year. As he describes it, he “lost the lottery,” though through all the pain and suffering and bizarre coincidences of his senior year, “It at least kind of somewhat worked out in the end.”

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