One year ago today, I was sobbing in my local emergency room. I knew what it was before the doc even confirmed it. I had a fever, chills, vomiting, consistent pain, and decreased urination. I was a kidney stone. I blogged about it in a drug induced fog from my hospital bed…right before they decided I needed emergency surgery.
That night kicked off a series of ER trips, hospital stays, doctor appointments, sick days, X-rays, CTs, ultrasounds, and surgeries. from March 19 to May 5, I was in constant pain. I stopped blogging 2 days after it all started. I was in a haze of discomfort and couldn’t even begin to put it all down in blog form at the time. So many people, family, friends, co-workers, internet friends, and fellow slicers have inquired about my health since that time. I guess it’s a good day for an update.
When I was wheeled into emergency surgery that I was told wasn’t going to happen until the next day, I assumed the doctor was going to remove my stones. I was pretty delirious from either the drugs or pure exhaustion to remember differently. I actually slept the entire way from my hospital room to the OR, only waking long enough for the doctor to explain things I don’t even remember.
It turns out that my right kidney—not the kidney which was actually giving me pain—was in some serious trouble. It was not draining and losing some functioning. The doctor inserted stents to travel from each of my kidneys to my bladder. He was not removing what I assumed was one stubborn stone on the left achy side.
If you want to do something, you might as well really do it. Apparently I had large stones in each kidney. Let me put it in perspective for you. I have passed several kidney stones during my time as a stoner. The largest I have ever been able to pass without surgical intervention was a 4mm. I’ve had surgery to remove a 4.5mm so 4mm is my limit. I had what we thought at the time were obstructing 9mm stones in each kidney along 4-6 stones ranging from 4mm to 6mm and then 5 or so stones under 3mm scattered about both my kidneys.
W. T. F.
I had those stents place for a couple of weeks. I floated between mildly uncomfortable and unable to get out of bed. On March 27, I returned for surgery to remove all those stones and replace the stents until I healed. I was devastated when I awoke to learn they had not been able to remove the stones. Not just some of them, but any of them. My left kidney had formed a blood clot along the way. They had to work on breaking that up and were unable to keep me under anesthesia to work on any stone removal for fear of damaging my kidneys further. Also, the stone on the left we thought was 9mm was actually 12mm. I thought the doctor had told me he cleared out the left of stones. I heard him wrong he was only able to clear the clot. I was going to need another surgery. Good news is that he replaced the stents with new smaller stents so I should be feeling pretty great until my kidneys were stable enough to undergo more surgery.
On April 2, I was unable to keep anything down again and was in a lot of pain. I had another visit to the emergency room. I had double kidney infections. The doctors were pretty worried. I had a two night stay in the hospital to get IV antibiotics. I went home uncomfortable but no longer vomiting. I missed Easter with my kids.
This time I lasted a week. On April 10th, I was again in the emergency room. I was checked in and spent a couple nights in the hospital again due to pain and continued infection. I stayed 3 nights this time due to infection. Another surgery was tentatively scheduled for 4/22 depending on the condition of the inflammation and infection.
I was able to avoid the hospital completely until my surgery on 4/22. The doctor came in and announced he had gotten each and every stone. I had many. Like more than many. Multiple small families invaded each kidney. The doctor thought based on the sizes that they had been hanging around for a while. They may have been growing since just after my very first kidney stone surgery during the summer of 2018. They were certainly made worse by my pregnancy with Theo. He is the gift that keeps on giving.
On April 28th, I just up and drove myself to the hospital. I was at work giving assessments at work and started to feel the pain. I called my boss from my worksite to ask her to run out to my car to grab the state testing material I had been using so they could remain secure. I mean—what was I thinking? I went from discomfort to pulling off on the shoulder to catch my breath because the pain was so bad in just minutes. By the time I walked into the ER, I was vomiting. I was certain that the hospital staff had tagged my file as a drug seeker by this time. I vomited a few more times as they gave me antibiotics. The pain subsided as did the nausea. They decided to send me home. I was less than pleased.
Just 3 days later, on Friday, May 1, I was back in the ER unable to keep food down and in excruciating amounts of pain. They checked me in. My stent was possibly malfunctioning. I was schedule for surgery on Sunday to replace the stents. By Sunday morning I was feeling pretty good but very nervous for yet another surgery. All my scans from the night before were in and my morning labs had been read. The urologist did not believe my stents were failing. She did believe that I had a very bad infection. The plan was to stay at the hospital until the cultures returned so they could hopefully treat with at home with targeted antibiotics rather than in the hospital with general IV antibiotics. Then the stents could be removed. If they were to remove the stents at the hospital, I would need to be put under anesthesia due to needing a sterile surgical room. If my doctor could do it in the office, he would just be able to numb the area. I did not want to go under again. My vote was for the doctor’s office.
I was finally released from the hospital on May 4th. And on May 5th, I had my final procedure. My stents were removed in the doctor’s office and I felt IMMEDIATE relief. My kidney stopped aching instantaneously. I was no longer nauseated. It was the most bizarre thing.
of my life spent battling little brushite kidney stones
That time was stolen from me. It was stolen from my family. I missed work and birthdays. I missed Easter and Sunday dinners with Great Grandpa. I was miserable. I spent more time in bed than any person should. I finished Netflix and the internet. I never want to go through any of it again.
There were a couple of days recently I was sure it was back. I was was vomiting and my kidney started spasming. I was terrified. I called my urologist and he confirmed with scans that my kidneys were perfectly clear. His exact words were,
I have the privilege of knowing your kidneys very intimately after so many surgeries. I know every crevice. And your scans show that nothing is hiding in any of them. You are dehydrated from being sick.~my urologist
What causes my stones? Pregnancy. Isn’t that interesting? Every time I have had an attack, it has been within a year of giving birth. As I will not be pregnant again—EVER—I don’t have much to worry about. I course, we will do check ups to make sure I am healthy, there is no reason to believe I’ll have a recurrence.
A year out from all that trauma, I’ve only recently begun to process how scary it all was. My children were terrified. My daughter thought every time I walked out the door, I was going to have to go to the hospital or have surgery. My husband did ALL THE THINGS for six weeks without me. For maybe the first time in my life, I had to accept the help of generous family, friends, and neighbors. I don’t do this well. It is not in my nature. I have it all under control all the time. It was really hard. I had to rest and learn to accept my limitations. I had to learn to be kind to myself.
I did all that with a lot of practice and a bit of counseling. She helped me learn the tools I needed to give myself grace, be kind to me, set boundaries, and prioritize my needs. It’s a hard thing to do. I will be forever grateful to all those who helped my family and me. There were so many meals, offer to help, last minute childcare changes, texts, calls, messages and emails, flexibility at work, understanding from co-workers…the list goes on and on. It’s taken me a good year to move through all the trauma and come out the other side feeling strong again. And now it all seems like a distant nightmare.