Thursday, July 10, 2014

Kidney Crush Saga

This is the tale of why I have been suffering a parade of medical problems for the past quarter year. I’ve been complaining about chronic kidney stones on Facebook for a while now. But I was operating under false assumptions. I have had one stone. And it has yet to pass. Most stones take a couple days to pass. Sometimes a week. A month if you’ve really pissed off God.

I got diagnosed with this stone in April.

Normally this would be a medical emergency, because a stone that gets stuck for that long is usually completely obstructing your ureter, and that is usually because it is enormous. This one started out at 4mm and now it’s grown to 5. Even by kidney stone standards, that’s not huge. It’s not obstructing either, so for a good month or so, I was not even aware it was there. But it’s stuck in there pretty good, and it has been steadily irritating my left kidney since April, causing it to swell, making the stone less likely to pass… vicious cycle, etc.

I experienced ‘descending pain’ several times throughout the past months, which is pain that starts in you back and languidly makes its way to your groin; the characteristic symptom of kidney stones. So naturally, we assumed that I had a lot of the little bastards. But the pain was never as bad as it was supposed to be, and no matter what, I could not ‘catch’ a stone to find out what was causing it. Instead, it’s likely that little bits were breaking off this stone, and disintegrating on the way down.

How did nobody notice? Well. I went to a clinic who sent me to get a CT scan, and they said that I had about an 80% chance of passing the stone naturally. I went to my doctor, who pretty much said “Drink lots of fluids, GLHF.”  Pain goes away and comes back about a week later. Go back to the doctor. She says “You probably passed it and got a new one. Drink more fluids. You don’t want to have another CT scan so soon cause radiation is bad. Try an ultrasound.” So I get an ultrasound.

Fun Fact: ultrasounds are apparently shit worthless unless you are previewing your progeny. The diagnosis was “Yup, probably a couple stones in there.” Oh swell. Wait, 'a couple'? How many is 'a couple'? Does 'a couple' qualify as a scientific unit of measurement now? Anyway, same deal. Awful descending pain that eventually disappears. I try to go back to my doctor again, but she is on vacation so I see another doc in the office. He blames salt. Admittedly, I do consume too much sodium and I have since cut back, but my wife (a nursing student), my in-laws (pharmacists), and my father (molecular biologist) all told me that diagnosis is insipid. But he says “See a urologist. Drink lots of fluids.”

The nearest urologist slot is open in a month. In that intervening month (late May to late June), the descending pain stops altogether. But I start to experience gas pain in my chest. Very uncomfortable, but I deal with it because I am tired of spending $30 to have some asshole in a white coat tell me to drink more fluids. The pain gets worse though, as ignored pain does.

Finally see the urologist. I ask him if the newfound pain in my chest has anything to do with kidney stone pain that has stopped (and at this point, I am very skeptical that I even had kidney stones at all because I’ve been trying to catch one this whole time). He says I need another CT, and that the gas pain is definitely not related to the stone. I consider telling him to piss up a rope, but agree to get another scan.

I get the other scan, and my parents and wife persuade me to see my doctor again. The day I decide to go, the gas pain disappears. Naturally. The doctor says we should wait for the scan results, confirms the chest pain is unrelated, but prescribes me some anti-acid pills. I don’t fill the script immediately because I have to get to work (having missed a lot of days due to debilitating pain and doctor’s appointments) and I am not in pain.

Never do this. Break any date. Piss off whoever you have to. If a doctor gives you meds, get them before you do anything else. Because around noon the next day, my abdomen began to burn, and a couple minutes later it felt like Lucifer himself was trying to screw his way out of my guts with a white-hot railroad spike. Fortunately, all these trips to the doctor have given me an arsenal of absurdly potent pain killers. Twenty minutes later, I am no longer in agony, but trying to do my job while bombed out of my skull.

I get the anti-acids and take them every morning.  Been doing that for a week now and I will keep doing it until the doctor tells me I have to stop. So anyway, I start to look stuff up, because if this is an unrelated problem, it’s clearly pretty serious. I have always had an over-zealous gag reflex, but since June, I wake up every morning and gag uncontrollably, sometimes to the point of vomiting. I had gas pain that gave way to incredibly intense abdominal pain. I have been under a lot of stress. Pain responds to anti-acids. This hasn’t been officially diagnosed yet, so maybe it is just the devil with a railroad spike, but all signs point to ulcer.

Today I went back to the urologist for the second CT scan results.
Urologist:  Yup, you’ve got a stone in there.
Me, laughing:  Damn, another one? That’s weird I haven’t even felt any descending pain in like a month.
Urologist nods:  That’s because it’s the same one.
He continues: The first scan showed it at 4mm. This one is 5mm in the same position. It’s stuck.
Me, not laughing anymore: Oh. Uh, so what do we do now?
[Trigger warning for people with a penis]
Urologist: It’s a very simple procedure. We thread a wire up your urethra, shoot the stone with a laser, vacuum out all of the shards, and put in a stent to make sure nothing gets lodged in the indentation while it recovers.
Me: Right. Yeah. Okay. And uh, how does the stent come out? Does it bio-degrade, or…
Urologist: Oh no. We just yank it out three days later. How does a week from today sound?

Funny thing is, this procedure will still probably be far less excruciating than passing the stone naturally. And much more expedient. So that’s why I have not been blogging much lately, and why I am having an operation next Thursday.

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