Samuel Pepys’ fascinating diary, started in 1660, contains the usual tales of lechery and narcissism, as well as amazing first hand accounts of the fire of London and the plague. But every March 26th he makes a special, pious point of recalling an operation to remove a painful kidney stone.
They say kidney stones are second only to childbirth in terms of prolonged intensity of pain, and last night I found out first hand that this could very well be true.
We had barely been back from our trip out east to D.C. and Philly, and had just finished dinner. Alma was upstairs getting Baby Z. ready for an early bedtime, and I was cleaning up all the books she had tossed around the living room when all of the sudden I got this intense pain in my lower left back. It was like a massive cramp, and it wasn’t going away.
After telling Alma what was up, I called my parents, who told me it sounded like a kidney stone, and suggested taking a couple painkillers (“do you have any Tylenol with codeine?” they asked, as if most people just have that lying around) and taking a warm bath. The Advil did nothing, and the warm bath only made my chills and discomfort worse. They had mentioned waiting a few hours before heading to the hospital, but I had a hunch that was pretty much inevitable and writhed back into my clothes.
I was basically moaning in agony on the couch, but Alma arranged to have our awesome neighbor come over to watch the (thankfully) sleeping baby before taking me to the emergency room. They saw me pretty quickly, as far as I could tell. Took a urine sample, more or less immediately diagnosed me (strawberry urine and the painful symptoms being a giveaway), hooked me to an IV and gave me a strong anti-inflammatory to reduce the pain.
Until that kicked in, I shivered in my gown under the sheets on the gurney as they wheeled me down for a CT scan, which was kind of cool, in a sci-fi sort of way. I was impressed at the giant GE logo branded in the side, as if such a massive piece of expensive medical equipment needed a brand.
“Ooh, have you tried the GE CT scans? Those things are great!”
The first test (which involves a little robo-prompt telling me to hold my breath, delivered in tandem with a cheesy, flashing airplane-ready icon of a smiley face holding its breath) more or less identified a 4mm calcification, which is a relatively little stone. Relatively, since the guy told me he’s seen them up to 8 or 10mm, and much bigger than that requires an operation. Anyway, he reassured me that a 4mm stone was still plenty painful, since he had one himself one New Year’s Eve a few years back.
Yeah, as if he needed to tell me it was painful.
Thankfully, the medicine kicked in on the way back to my crowded, cold corner of the subdivided ER. Cold, because as the nurse told me, nearly everyone who came in was either “obese or menopausal.” I had a feeling I was something of a novelty, given the fact that other than the stone my kidneys were in fine working order, I wasn’t morbidly obese and I seemed to know what was going on. The fat woman next to me went to the ER for a urinary tract infection. The younger fat woman across the way in “room” 10 was being told that generic painkillers were as good as the name brand.
Alma, who was great to have around, had to go home to relieve the neighbor and get some rest. I was sent back down for another CT, this time with some irradiated dye or something in my IV, which makes it easier to discern the organs. Several minutes later, I was back in my room, and the doctor soon confirmed the diagnosis as a kidney stone. Hooray.
I’m still unclear what comes next, but they sent me home only after a few short hours with a strainer and a prescription for Vicodin (plus one pill for the road, as it were, to be taken before bed, since I couldn’t get the prescription filled until today).
“Know anything about Vicodin?” asked the nurse.
“Only from watching the news,” I replied (and from Eminem songs, though I didn’t mention that).
“Well, it’ll make you a little dopey,” she told me, giving me the rundown.
I wouldn’t know, since I went to sleep almost immediately after taking it after the cab brought me home. Since then I’ve been drinking a ton of water, peeing a lot and straining my urine with a little funnel, searching for a tiny speck of a stone which may or may not appear.
So is the pain gone for good? Dunno. Will the stone emerge? Dunno. Will this happen again? I hope not!
Oh, the best story actually came from Alma. After I was carted off and she came back from moving the car, some woman in the waiting room blurted out:
“You lookin’ for your man? Your man went that way.”
That’s me. I’m the man.