Sunday, February 25, 2007

Attack of the Stones

In the summer of 2002, I was working at the Mayo Clinic as a telephone operator (transferring calls to various departments, paging doctors for patients). All was going well in the early evening until I started to feel a rather sharp pain in my lower back.

I had felt some low-level pain in that area a few times in the past week or so, but nothing like I was feeling at the moment. I tried to work through it, but there was just too much pain. I told the lady I was working with about it and called one of my bosses at St Marys who said I could go.

The great thing about working at the clinic is that if you get sick, you're never too far from a doctor. The telephone office was located on the 20th floor, so I took the elevator down to the subway level and walked from there to the Baldwin building (where urgent care is at). It wasn't too far of a walk, but the pain became so excruciating that I had to stop from time to time. A doctor walking in the subway noticed this and sought help. With great effort, I was able to make it to the urgent care desk. I was really grimacing, though. I explained my condition and they asked me to sit in the waiting area. I actually laid down on one of the couches in the waiting area and a few times, audibly groaned in pain. I was fairly quickly taken to an office where a nurse asked me questions. The pain continued. A nice doctor saw me for a few minutes and assured me that I would get some pain medicine right away. Shortly therafter, I was given a shot of morphine. It took awhile, but the pain did start to subside. I was told that urgent care didn't deal with such extreme cases, that I was going to be transported to the ER located about a mile up the road at St Marys. I was put on a cart and taken to a waiting ambulance.

I had never been in an ambulatory vehicle before. Though I was in pain, I made sure to take everything in. The trip from Mayo to St Marys took only a few minutes.

Once there, I was taken to a bed and given an IV (I get woozy at the sight of blood, so turned away when they did the injection). A short time later, I had x-rays done as well as some other tests. I didn't know what it was that I had. A doctor took my case and told me after the tests came back that I had kidney stones.

One of the nurses in the ER said that many women have said that the pain of having kidney stones is worse than that of childbirth. The IV continued to work its magic and I was eventually given some Vicodin and sent on my way. The doctor said it would take time for the stone to pass through my system, but that the pills would help in the meantime. I was encouraged to drink as much liquid as possible to make the stones pass faster (The stones probably formed because I had been getting a crapload of exercise over the past few months, but not drinking enough liquid to replenish my system).

I rested for a few days. The pain would get bad in the evening and the pills usually took about 45 minutes to take effect, so once the pain started, I was pretty screwed until those 45 minutes were up. I tried to take the pills earlier and earlier, but I still had moments of big-time pain. While I waited for the pills to take effect in the evening, I would read in bed, mostly comic books, Star Wars comic books, to be exact, like this one:

The latest Star Wars movie, "Episode II: Attack of the Clones" had come out just a few weeks before my stone pain surfaced, so in a nod to that movie, I named my sickness the "Attack of the Stones". Pretty clever, I thought.

A week later, the pain began to subside and then pretty much went away. However, I hadn't yet passed a stone (I had been told to urinate in a strainer so that the stone could be saved for later analysis).

Who knows? Maybe I had passed it. Little did I know that the worst was yet to come.

Yes, my kidney stone pain appeared to be a thing of the past (thank God). I was off to the Stone Clinic to meet with Dr. Erickson.

(He didn't look quite this scary when I saw him).

He was basically gonna review my x-rays and give me some tips on what I needed to do to avoid another attack in the future. I actually felt pretty cool walking into the Stone Clinic, like, hey, I survived stones, man. Party. There were a couple older people in the waiting area with me. I met with the doctor and he said that the x-rays did still show a stone or two in my kidneys, but that if I was pain-free, it is quite possible that the painful one had passed. He said stones can stay in the kidney for years and not be a problem. He recommended that I try to eat more fruits and vegetables in the future to avoid another attack. In particular, he told me to drink lots of water. "Drink more water, damn you! Then you wouldn't have these problems." I left the clinic feeling good. Went home, opened the fridge, drank some "high-quality H20".

A few days later, I started to get the most uncomfortable feeling. Even after going to the bathroom, I felt as if I still had to urinate. And not just urinate a little bit, but like I had to go really bad. You may not believe this, but I think I almost preferred the pain of the stones over the constant feeling of needing to urinate. Thankfully, I did get some relief when I was sleeping, but otherwise, it was mighty uncomfortable.

I set up an appointment to be seen in the internal medicine department at Mayo. The doctor said this happening was most likely due to a stone getting further along in my system. He said it should pass soon. The only other options were to have surgery to get rid of it, but he didn't recommend that. The bummer is that there wasn't anything I could take for the urinary discomfort while I had had the Vicodin to lean on for the excruciating pain that had occured before. So I waited it out. Needless to say, it sucked.

Finally, one evening, still using the strainer, something not liquidy came out.

It was the stone! I was free! And with that my bogus adventure was over at last. I turned the stone in for analysis and promised myself to drink as much water as possible in the future, anything to avoid a sequel of '02's attack.

All you youngstas, please listen, when in doubt, drink more water.

"More water, damn you!!!"


Rocketstar said...

That was a great story Thomas, fully enjoyed that one.

I thin I am going to go mix a drink now, you know to get more water.

This post remindedme of this one from me:

Thomas said...

Damn, Rocket, your vasectomy story was a doozy. As I read it, I involuntarily closed my legs from time to time out of sympathy.

Mags said...

So...that was gross.