July 11, 2007

A painful memory

First of all, let me wish Val a speedy recovery from her surgery. Everyone who wants to should stop by and wish her well.

However, her tale of woe is unfortunately too familiar to me. Before I get into the details, I'll give you a little bit of a related story so that you'll understand my state of mind.

About 24 years, while I was working as a su chef in a country club, my friend the clubhouse manager had taken several days off for repeated doctor's visits. One Sunday morning, while waiting for customers to arrive for the weekly champagne brunch, I asked him what was wrong. The following conversation ensued:

"So what was the matter with you?"

"Kidney stones."

"Bummer. I've heard that they hurt like hell."

"Yeah. They couldn't see 'em on the x-rays so they used a [cannot remember the name anymore] to take a look."

Being somewhat knowledgeable in medical stuff, I immedately grasped the implications of his comment and replied quite calmly:

"They shoved a camera up the inside of your dick?!"

"Yeah. What's worse is that they still couldn't find the damned thing. So then they tried bombarding my kidney with ultrasound to try and break up the stone."

"Did that work?"

::shrug:: "No idea. They still couldn't see it. So they shoved the [evil device] back in to take another look. When they didn't find anything again, they tried ultrasounding the little bastard again."

"Holy crap... well, you seem better. I guess that it's gone now?"

"Apparently. What the doctor said was 'The hole was probably enlarged enough so that it passed on its own.'"

I still cringe when I read that statement. Anyway, it's now a dozen years later and I awake around 5:00 a.m., experiencing some pain which, unlike others I had felt before, kept increasing in intensity. I couldn't stand, sit, or lie down in any position where it didn't hurt. However, if I stood hunched over like 95 year old man with back problems, I didn't have to try too hard to not scream. Anyway, I couldn't really drive in the postion, so I asked my mother to drive me to the hospital, all the while wondering in I was dying.

Fortunately, the guy checking people into the emergency room didn't waste any time. When I stumbled through the doors, he hit the nurse call button and had me fill out paperwork as they rolled me down the hallway.

Quick note: hospitals will not treat you with pain medication unless you've signed the consent form first thinking, rightly, that the medication reduces your ability to give proper consent. For the record, the pain was so bad that I'd have signed almost anything.

Anyway, the doctor asked a couple of questions about the pain and its location, and then followed up with the "I think you've got a kidney stone" comment. At least now I knew what made me long for the sweet release of death. And then, unbidden, came a memory which I wish had stayed forgotten:

The hole was probably enlarged enough...

Okay, so the kidney stone not only caused pain, it made me quite nauseated. The pain medication killed the agony, but it had one downside: it also caused nausea. However, pain free and vomiting was preferable to pain-filled and vomiting, so I didn't complain. Also, they were pumping in tons of stuff via the IV: the medication, fluids and dye for the stone which, hopefully, would make it visible on the x-ray.

The hole was probably enlarged enough...

After having waddle around the x-ray machine with my IV jar in tow, they had me try to go potty. As it turns out, the massive quantity of fluids being pumped into my veins had made a beeline for my bladder. This was supposed to help me pass the stone.

The hole was probably enlarged enough...

They gave me a paper cone with a mesh filter at the bottom, designed to catch anything that fell out. However, notwithstanding the pressure in my bladder, I simply could not go.

The hole was probably enlarged enough...

So I went back to the table and waited for a while, at which point they had me try again. Once again, I proved incapable of a task that I had proven quite good at since birth. It was the third failure that made me whimper a bit though.

The hole was probably enlarged enough...

It didn't take a seer to know that something bad was going to happen to me very soon if my body didn't do what I needed it to.

The hole was probably enlarged enough...

Finally, on the fourth try, a little pebble went ::plop:: into the cup. I think that I wept a little, although I'm not entirely clear on whether it was from happiness or pain.

In any event, I then spent a couple of hours sleeping waiting for my mother to come back. The pain went away and it hasn't returned yet. Hopefully it never will. One of the more horrible things that the doctor told me was there are some people whose bodies form kidney stones every few months. Every few months. I've sliced off the tip of a finger before (no bone, it grew back eventually) and the pain from that little mishap wasn't in the same ballpark as the kidney stone pain. It didn't even play the same game.

Anyway, go wish Val well. And wish yourself a kidney stone free life.

Posted by: Physics Geek at 12:53 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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