So, I had my first kidney stone this month. I’ve had many sports injuries, and I naively thought that a 6mm kidney stone would be something similar. I was so, so very wrong. Below you’ll find a Facebook post that I wrote after dealing with the pain for thirteen days. The next day I was going to have a procedure to pummel that stupid little stone into oblivion.
The second half of this blog is an email I wrote to update my coworkers after the procedure was done.
It was a painful process, but I hope you find the following story painfully humorous and perhaps a bit helpful if you’re going through the same.
The Facebook Post
On Tuesday the 10th at 3am, I woke with some serious abdomen pain. Denise, my wife, has had appendicitis before, so we thought that’s what it was. We prepped for the emergency room, but by the time we were ready to go, it had faded. Denise called our doctor, and they told us to keep an eye on it and see about it the next day.
The intense pain didn’t come back, but a fever and a dull ache persisted. By lunch, we were at the emergency room and found I had a rather large kidney stone (6mm). The ER doctor was pretty sure it’d pass within 3 days, so he sent me home with some drugs and a urologist to call.
Not knowing what to expect, I went to work on Wednesday and had a decent day. It hurt some, but nothing crazy. I even worked out at the gym and played some racquetball. I followed the doctor’s orders and drank a bunch of water to get it to move.
Well, following doctor’s orders never hurt so bad. By 5am on Thursday, I took my first pain pill. By 7am, I was face down on the floor and incapable of doing much of anything. Turns out writhing is a literal thing. Thursday and Friday passed in a haze of pain, drugs and very little food.
By Saturday, it was getting better again. I rested a lot, took some meds, but figured the worst was passed. On Monday, I had my urologist appointment. He said it was good that it was moving. He also assured me the real pain was from the kidney to the bladder – I had been much more concerned about the final exit strategy, if you know what I mean. Either way, it wasn’t there yet. So he said keep drinking water, and if it didn’t pass, in seven days I would be able to have a surgical procedure to break the stone up via shockwaves.
SEVEN DAYS? Turns out a group of urologists share this very expensive machine, and they don’t always have access to it. Nor can they figure out who has it and refer me to them. Capitalism at its best. Bummer for me.
So Monday passed. I worked from home. I wrote code, I answered email, I felt good. I also drank a lot of water.
That made the stone move.
The stone moving made me very, very sad. On Tuesday, I was begging for more powerful drugs. I have since spent my days and nights on the floor. I’ve slept little. I’ve dozed a lot. I’ve eaten more than I did the first week, but mostly I’ve just waited for Monday.
The moral of this story is that kidney stones are not fun if they are over 4 or 5 mm. I actually imagine they are not fun if they are less than that. In fact, how could any sort of jagged, hard, calcium based object moving through a tube half its size within your body ever be fun?
The whole thing has been ridiculous, actually, but it’s just about over. The stone should be sent back to the nightmare abyss from which it has come, and by Tuesday, I should be good as new.
Any-who, thought you’d enjoy a Christmas story. I’m hopeful it turns into a Christmas miracle. Procedure is at 10:30 and I should be home and, mercifully, sleeping by 1pm.
Post-op follow up to my co-workers
This past Monday, I celebrated Christmas a little early by hanging out at the hospital and having a surgeon pummel my kidney stones with shock waves for an hour or so while I slept the sweet, sweet sleep of general anesthesia. I slept like a baby rest of the day, and on Christmas Eve made it outside on my own for the first time in 13 unlucky days.
I’m relatively pain free, though it feels like I went a few rounds with Tyson in his prime and couldn’t block the body blows. But as far as I know, should be good from here.
Things I learned during the last 13 days:
- Kidney stones are panned from the Acheron by Hades himself. Medical fact.
- It is possible to teach oneself to sleep on one’s stomach, if the pain is great enough and the only relief is the cold, cold floor.
- It is then possible to repeat that process for up to two weeks at a time, though it isn’t recommended as elbows and knees do develop bruises.
- The 0-10 scale of pain that the Dr. asks you when you aren’t feeling well is actually a base-10 logarithmic scale, much like the Richter scale. I reached 10 on the first day I was diagnosed, or so I naively thought for it was only a 7.
From Dec 12 – 13, I hung out at 10 on the scale for hours at a time. I was wrong. It was only an 8.
On the 16th, after a relatively productive day of work, and eating an entire Dominos small pizza myself (I was finally hungry!), I found a new 10 that lasted from 4pm until 5am the next day.
Yet I was wrong again, and that was really only a 9, for in the early morning hours of the 23rd, a mere nine hours from scheduled relief of my sisyphean task, I found what a true 10 was like. I beseech Virgil that the pain I felt that morning was in fact the final circle of pain. I really don’t think I could take another level, but it’s pretty amazing what you can get through if you have to.
- To writhe. It’s a very real verb, and not just a literary turn of phrase.
- Communication mishaps are rampant in all organizations.
To wit: On the 17th, while I thought I was writhing through a 10, which was really only a 9, my wife called the urologist to see if there was a way we could get in sooner for the procedure, for I had begun to bequeath my belongings to friends and family and that caused her great consternation.
The not-so-friendly nurse stated that if I was in such terrible torment, I could go to the ER, where they would ease my pain. This answer was not received well, and I did not take her up on her offer. I felt no desire to go to the ER once a day for the next week, at $250 a trip, just to make the pain go away.
No, I would suffer through the pain like a man: with tears, gnashing of teeth, rending of garments, and terrible curses called down upon all the gods of all the pantheons that have ever existed. Pretty sure Odin would currently deny my entry to Valhalla. Sorry Odin, that was uncalled for.
On the day of the procedure, the urologist performing the procedure informs me that he had cleared his schedule on the 17th after hearing about my pain, expecting that I would be going to the ER. Had I gone, he would have put in a stent that would have relieved the pain and made the following six days bearable.
Excuse me? That’s not what we were told. My wife can get angry, that was kinda fun to see. I don’t think the nurse had a very Merry Christmas when the doc got back to the office. He was also not happy.
At least a website error doesn’t cause physical torment for weeks on end.
- Pain meds can cause constipation. This can lead to complications. Strong complications. This one gets pretty personal, but I’ll tell you the story if you want to know it. It’s interesting and goes way beyond what is public knowledge.
- When that kind of pain finally goes away, it is really exciting.
So there’s the story. I hope you enjoyed it. Who made it through without having to look up the references? Anybody?