I just couldn’t take it anymore.
The once dull and somewhat nagging pain in my lower back wasn’t dull anymore. When a sharp bolt of agony slammed into my flank I reached back half expecting to feel a letter opener buried deep in my side. No such weapon was present.
I had a kidney stone- again. And this time, my body told me, a few pain pills and several gallons of water was not going to cure it. This was something altogether different.
Like anyone, I’d really rather not be sick, so I tried to wait it out. I iced my back and thought with a little luck I’d feel better after lunch.
It was worse. Much worse. More than I could handle.
So I get in the car and drive to Urgent Care, sign in, and slink into the chair in the waiting room. I tried to distract myself with my cell phone. I watched a video of small dogs who misjudge their leaps and bounce off the furniture. I didn’t help as much as I’d hoped. The chuckling hurt.
I’m finally called to the little exam room. Temperature- normal. Blood pressure- high. Shaky and twitchy from the pain.
The doctor enters and pokes at me for a bit before ordering an X-ray.
We always expect our doctors to talk to us with that professional physician voice- calm, clear, and measured. When a doctor can’t help but speak enthusiastically about what’s wrong with you it’s alarming.
My doctor re-enters the room and is grinning slightly as if genuinely amused. “It’s HUGE!” he exclaims, holding his hands apart for emphasis. He pulls a thick pen out of his pocket, holds it sideways and says “It’s at least this big! Probably bigger. Biggest one I’ve seen.” With equally chipper enthusiasm he says “You need to see a urologist- soon.”
He showed me the X-ray and my jaw dropped. There, just south of my right kidney, was a gargantuan lump of calcified debris.
Now most of the time what they call a kidney stone isn’t much of a stone at all. It’s not even significant enough to be a pebble. Kidney crumbs would be more accurate.
What I saw clouding up my x-ray wasn’t a crumb, or a pebble, it was a rock- 1.9 centimeters of rock. For reference, that’s the size of a penny.
The tube it travels through to from the kidney to the bladder is the width of the milk straws at the school cafeteria. This is, to put it mildly, a problem.
The doctor sent me home with pain pills- thank God, and the promise of a morning appointment with a specialist. I slept ok and enjoyed some trippy Norco-induced technicolor dreams. When I awoke the next morning, however, there would be no waiting for an appointment. The pain was, as best I can describe it, crippling.
I somehow managed to drive to the E.R. through a steady stream of tears and moans, and practically hugged the counter at the waiting room. I kept mumbling “Stone. HUGE stone,” while pointing my thumb over my shoulder. “It’s a 10,” I said, giving them a pain rating they hadn’t yet asked for.
They sent me back to a small room and had me lay down on a gurney. I’m in some of the worst pain I’ve ever experienced- but I can read the faces of the medical staff as they enter. They all wore the same look of muted amusement.
“You have,” the E.R. physician said in clear medical terminology “a monstrosity of a boulder.” He continued, “This is the largest hunk of stone I’ve ever seen moving through somebody.”
I’m glad they were all so impressed, but my main concern was getting something to stop me from incessantly screaming AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS!
Eventually it came, in the form of an I.V. delivered painkiller. I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t care. I just wanted it to work and it did.
When the pain diminished enough for me to carry on an intelligible conversation, the Urologist explained the penny through the milk straw problem and told me there no way I’ll pass this on my own, nor would I ever want to. What’s more, their usual tricks for getting rid of stones wouldn’t work. Using lasers or sound to break it up wasn’t possible. The stone was too big. They were going to have to go in with scopes and cut it out manually. This, he said, could be done in a week or two- but first I had to give my kidney a break.
What happens next is a bit gross and I hope to God this NEVER happens to you. The only way to relieve my swollen, blocked kidney was to cut a hole in my back and stick a tube in there. As I write this, I have the surreal experience of doing 50% of my peeing right out of my back.
This is, I think, officially – the weirdest I’ve been.
The process of inserting the tube in my already screaming kidney left this grown man a blubbering pile of tears and snot. Two nights in the hospital later and I’m home and on the mend until round two- boulder extraction.
Every medical personnel I spoke to in the hospital told me this is the worst pain they know a person to have- worse, they assured me, than childbirth. I don’t know if that’s true, but if it’s anywhere close then I’ll tell you- the women of the world just got another boost of respect from me.
I’m in tears trying to deliver a penny sized rock.
If you’re a woman, you can deliver an entire human being.
Have you had the misfortune of having a kidney stone too? Tell me about it in the comment section below.
Note: One in ten will have a kidney stone sometime in their life. They send half a million people to the E.R. every year! The best defense against getting a kidney stone is to stay properly hydrated. Keep sipping that water folks.
Enjoyed this article? Subscribe. I’ll let you know about my latest posts and thoughts.