Monday, August 29, 2011

Kidney Stones - Part Two

Again, this has nothing to do with Oracle....Sorry.... I feel like my experience with kidney stones might comfort someone else in the same situation, so I want to share my story.... maybe you will benefit from it someday.

So.... you have a kidney stone, or rather like me, you have seven. I've already talked about the experience and surprise in finding I had stones here. It was so different than my previous experiences with stones which involved pain to major degrees.

So, after discovering I was a stone factory it was time to see the urologist. Very often the urologist will just take a sit and wait approach to smaller stones. Anything under 5mm has a fair chance of passing in a month or two, and it's always better for them to pass than anything else. While there is often pain, the pain can be managed.

Still when you have large stones > 5mm or, like me, you have a family of stones larger than the Brady bunch, it's time for alternatives. My alternative was laser based lithotripsy. You can follow the link to find out the details of the procedure. It's considered non-evasive (though you will pee blood for a while) which I think is a big positive. I don't like the idea of them cutting into me unless there is no other alternative. It just seems that the overall risks go way up as soon as they start opening you up, and I'm all about risk mitigation.

Even with the notion of it being non-invasive, it still involves a hospital, as it is an out-patient surgical procedure. It also involves a surgery room, anesthesia (general), and recovery. I'll talk about all of that later. Bottom line, at least for someone who has never had surgery (except for my wisdom teeth) it seemed like a big deal.

If you get nervous about these things (and most of us do) I strongly advise you get something from your doctor to deal with the anxiety. I know many of us are reluctant to take such things, but I have to say that all of this was much nicer not being accompanied with nerves, stress and anxiety. I think sometimes being strong means accepting that you are human and that you need to sometimes do things, like take medicines, to improve your overall experience in life. In the case of surgery, this is one of those times. Ask for and take the anti-anxiety medicines before the surgery. You will be glad you did. I was.... I wasn't nervous at all... which is unusual for me where needles are sure to be involved.

No food or drink after midnight is the rule of course. I hate that.... not because I eat or drink after midnight usually, but because knowing I don't MAKES me thirsty. They also don't let you take certain types of medication several days before like ibuprofen or aspirin... It seems like Tylenol is still in, which is good if you get a headache the day before surgery.

I checked into the hospital at 6am and they were quickly calling me back to start the process. They made me put on on the dreaded hospital gown. Ugh. That in and of itself is a humiliating experience. Then you lie on the gurney and they poke you with the IV. I think of the entire experience this was the single worst event of the whole thing. I hate needles. Hate. I mean real hate. Despise, you get the picture. However, I will say in an effort to be positive, that they got the IV in fairly easily ..... I held my arm real still and, like I always do, I kicked my legs are the needle went in. Somehow that made me feel better.

Another thing you need to bring with you to the hospital is a really good friend. Lisa came with me and she really made the experience much better than it might have otherwise been. She also provided some post-operative commentary which was... interesting.

After the IV (and the associated saline drip) I awaited my fate on the gurney. It didn't take long for them to come get me and wheel me out to the surgery area. They pulled me into a hallway outside the surgery room and the anesthesiologist gave me some kind of relaxant through the IV. To be honest, after that, I don't remember anything..... I was effectively in la la land.

Next thing I remember was waking up in the recovery room. The first thing I remember is that they were telling me they were taking my catheter out. Great, I didn't know they had put one in.... Of course, I was so out of it that I didn't notice much when they pulled it out. I do recall a thought like, "oh.... that wasn't so bad." and it wasn't. Really, that kind of became the theme of this whole experience really, "not so bad".

During the surgery they went in, blasted the stones to hell, and removed them. Apparently they also put my kidneys through five kinds of hell because they hurt for quite some time after the surgery. Poor things. With the surgery done, they put stints in the ureters to help deal with the swelling. These stints would later have to come out... and that was fun, not. 

I don't remember anything after that until I was in my little private room. I remember they were worried about my blood oxygen levels. They kept telling me to breathe and I was like I AM breathing. I kept hearing this damned alarm go off all the time, and that was annoying. Apparently the alarm didn't like the way I was breathing. I could hear my heart going on the monitor ... beep, beep , beep, beep... I remember thinking, you know, it would be totally uncool to hear this thing go beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee before I blacked out and had a heart attack, realizing that was my heart stopping and that something really bad had happened. Of course, that didn't happen and thank God for that!

After a while the alarm stopped going off, I stopped telling terrible jokes (apparently under the the influence of anesthesia I tend to be really funny or at least I try... LOL ) and it was finally time to go home. Once home, I just slept the rest of the day pretty much.

The next day I was up and I was so full of energy and that continues to this day. It was like night and day after the surgery. The pain killers kind of wacked me out and I was peeing blood out like crazy, but I felt better. My kidneys hurt like hell to be honest, and so it was good that I had pain medicine. I continued to pee blood for the next 10 days. It decreased over time and was almost over before my 10 day after surgery appointment with the doctor.

Ten days later I was at the doctor for my post-op appointment and to have the stints removed. I will say that having the stints removed was perhaps the single weirdest experience in my life. I expected to feel totally humiliated but I really wasn't. I think after being in the hospital I got past the humiliation thing. To remove the stints they insert this small scope in your penis (no anesthesia). it has a camera at the end and also there is this little "grabber" that the doctor can move around and use to grab the stint and pull it out.

Now, most men probably just groaned at the idea of something being shoved up their penis. I have to say that it didn't really hurt. It was uncomfortable, but not painful. It was also interesting because you can watch the tube travel into your body and watch as he finds the stints and removes them. It's kind of an odd feeling really as you go through this process, but it's not too bad. So.... if your reading this and waiting for that appointment, don't fear it.... it's a bit odd but it's over in like five minutes or so.

I bled pretty good again after that, and felt some more kidney pain for a day or two. Right now, about a week after that appointment, I still hurt off and on and need pain pills from time to time. I find that I bleed off and on and it's mostly associated with physical activity. I also find blood clots or scar tissue in the blood and that seems to be normal. I'm still surprised how much blood I do have at times, because I'll go a little bit without any blood and then I'll get some deep red. I think it's normal and it's getting less and less frequent.

I have a follow up appointment in 30 days, and all seems well now. The experience really wasn't bad. People who have had stones in the past have a 60% chance of having them again. So there is a possibility I suppose that I'll go though this again. I'm trying to do the things I need to do to avoid stones.... drinking a lot of water, avoiding salt (to avoid dehydration) .... I'm doing a little less well at watching what I eat I'm afraid (reducing protein and the like).

With respect to work, I was off and on for the first two weeks or so. The first two weeks I was able to engage in work on and off. Sometimes the pain and the pain pills would get in the way. I'm in my third week now and really starting to feel like I can engage full time.

So... that's my kidney stone story. Such as it is. If your going through it, I hope this helps you to worry a little less about the process and the experience.

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