LEESBURG, Ga. -- When official Georgia House records showed an "E" beside state Rep. Ed Rynders' name on crucial budget, immigration and Sunday alcohol sales votes Tuesday and Thursday, many Southwest Georgians wondered why the Leesburg Republican failed to cast his vote on such important legislation.
The "E," it turns out, represents the first excused absence of Rynders' nine-year House tenure, and it became necessary when he developed a kidney stone that required emergency surgery.
Rynders underwent surgery at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Thursday and is currently at home recuperating.
"You're not alone in wondering about the 'E' by my name," a groggy Rynders said Friday afternoon. "I've gotten emails from concerned constituents wanting to know why I didn't cast my vote on those important issues.
"Voting is the most important thing I do in the House, and I didn't want anyone to think this was a case of dereliction of duty. It simply couldn't have been avoided."
Rynders said he has actually been fighting the kidney issue for more than a month.
"I thought it was an infection, took an antibiotic and didn't seek treatment," he said. "But my self-diagnosis turned out to be wrong."
Rynders said he started experiencing severe pain on Monday and went to the House doctor, who prescribed pain medication and scheduled an MRI at Emory Hospital in Atlanta for 7:45 a.m. Tuesday.
Rynders sought and was granted an excused absence for Tuesday's 39th day of the 40-day session.
When the MRI revealed a kidney stone that was too large for laser surgery that is now used to pulverize the stone, Rynders was told he'd have to have invasive surgery. He drove home, in pain, Tuesday afternoon, and was scheduled for surgery Thursday morning at Phoebe.
"The surgery was done as outpatient, but it was done with a sense of urgency," Rynders said.
The state representative said his post-surgery prognosis is good, and he will spend the next few days recuperating before returning to Phoebe for follow-up.
"My politics have not changed, but this experience has softened my position -- at least for now -- on the use of narcotics," Rynders quipped, showing that his sense of humor survived the procedure.