15 March 2008

The ER Visit

As mentioned in a previous post, I did have an ER visit a few weeks ago. Since Nancy basically begged me to talk about it (in the comments), here's a recap:

It was Friday morning, and of course, had a lot of pressing issues going on at work. This is always a key indicator that something will go wrong. I took care of the regular morning business, and then left for work which is about a ten minute drive. Five minutes in, nausea set in, accompanied shortly after by heavy sweating and the like.

The flu has been going around, in case you've been stuck in a cave for months, so I immediately thought I'd finally caught it. I suffered through the next five minutes on my way to work, all the while suppressing the urge to puke in the car. I probably should have gone home when it started, but as I mentioned, there were pressing issues at work. I at least needed to go in and give direction for the day (major items needed to be completed that day).

So, I arrived at work and proceeded to the restroom to hug a toilet for a while. Quelled the nausea for a while, so went over to my desk and shot out instructions via e-mail, then told the necessary folks I was going home. Still had to drive ten more minutes back to the house fighting the urge to puke, and even more heavy sweating. Arrive home, and the floodgates opened (and opened and opened some more). Everything pointed toward the flu.

About halfway through the day, the pains in my back started, so I knew I was up against kidney stones. Pain pills helped with my liquid lunch, so I laid down and tried to rest. Finally took a short nap, and woke up at dinner time. Felt a little better, even though it was the tail end of the noontime pill battery, so thought maybe everything had gone back to normal. Even tried a little bit more substance for dinner, but then the pain decided to strike back with a vengeance. I tried more pain pills, but their effect had decided to take off for the weekend, and left me back in the bathroom, keeping the porcelain company.

Let me tell you, clam chowder seems to have some sort of replication effect in your stomach. I'm sure there were severe violations of the conservation of mass that night.

Well, the pain increased, and as my wife is fond of saying, when I start cussing up a storm, it's time to hit the emergency room. She drove me down, and wheeled me inside with one of their wheelchairs. They took me back immediately (during another visit last September they did the same thing, but it was because I was pale and near unconsciousness. Not sure what prompted that this time).

The pain was a 12 on a scale of 10 at this point, so they gave me something for that. It had to be morphine because I barely remember my visit. I do remember my wife mocking me for snoring (*eye roll*), having to move myself from the gurney to the CT scan machine, and then having to move from the gurney to my overnight bed. I also remember them asking for a urine sample, which I was in no condition to give.

Sure enough, they planned to keep me overnight, presumably for surgery in the morning. Because the morphine made me worse off than Rip Van Winkle, I had to rely on my wife's ability to relay details and necessary information and keep track of the situation. Not a good plan. I had to assume it would have entailed like my others where they go in and blast the stones into smaller fragments.

Needless to say, I didn't sleep well overnight. Tossed and turned, stood up to visit the restroom with nothing to show for my efforts. Finally, sometime in the middle of the night, I was able to go into one of those lovely plastic urinals. Since I hadn't been able to in the ER, I knew they were looking for a sample. So, I caught one of the nurses (assistants?) and mentioned it. He told me they didn't need it, so I mentioned the unfilled request from the ER. He was surprised, and went off to get a sample cup.

This, as we say in writing, is called foreshadowing.

I tossed and turned some more, kept walking around the room. The pain started in again, but this time it was in the front. My stone was making a run for the border. I tried to catch another nurse to see if they could give me something for the pain, but they ignored me (and I didn't push the call button, I suppose). In the end, it was probably good they did, because otherwise I would have been completely out of sorts for the morning. And that could have made things far worse.

I finally went to sleep around 3, still in pain, albeit manageable. The nurses woke me up around 7, telling me that the folks from surgery were here to take me to pre-op. All of them were disorganized, apparently because surgery was called, but the floor was not. Needless to say, it was a bit frightening to know that these were the people who were going to be performing surgery on me, surgery which I was not completely clear about. They wanted me to sign papers, and since I'm anal about that sort of thing, I read through them and noticed that it indicated I'd talked to the doctor about the surgery (which I hadn't).

Did I mention I was a bit frightened by this point?

The pre-op nurse came in at that point to take me out. I stood up and noticed I didn't have any pain at all. Knowing I wasn't under the influence of morphine, I asked to make a pit stop. Now, I've had kidney stones for years. Most of them have grown too large to pass on their own, but there have been times when I've had one come out by itself. It's a strange feeling hard to put into words.

Needless to say, I shot a big-mother-of-a-stone out at the last minute. There's no mistaking the "rock out of a straw" feeling, nor the "ker-thunk" as it hits the bottom of the plastic urinal. I poked my head out of the bathroom and told them they may want to hold off on surgery, since I just passed it. They were still running around like chickens with their heads cut off, so they told me to leave it in there, and they'd strain it. So, I did so, and went to go sit on the bed.

You can almost hear the music crescendoing in the background.

(Editor's note: the pre-op nurse told me later she was surprised I didn't pass out. I guess when you've been through it as many times as I have, it doesn't faze you as much)

The floor nurse walked in to the bathroom, then came out and said she didn't see anything when she strained it. Now, I've been through this whole ordeal of passing stones for a while, so know what it feels like and what these things look like, so I knew I'd passed a stone. So, I walked back into the bathroom, and sure enough, the stone was still sitting in the plastic urinal. I showed it to the pre-op nurse, and she agreed it was a stone.

Did I mention I was a bit frightened?

Thankfully, the doctor came in, the stone in a test tube, and verified I'd passed a stone and wouldn't need surgery. I'm certain I'll see a nice charge on the bill for that visit. It took them two more hours to get my discharge papers, but at least I got a free breakfast out of the deal...

Pancakes and sausage...yummy.

Oh, and lest I forget, it included coffee and milk. Which, for a guy with calcium kidney stones, are two big no-nos...

kidney stones


  1. Thanks for sharing. (Quite a bit of detail...)

    Sounds awful. Glad you're okay.


  2. As far as I know, I am... :-)

    (I'm practicing at inflating my word count...hee hee)


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