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    Tuesday, July 18, 2006

    Stones Would Play

    I keep forgetting to mention this. Not sure why, probably because of that whole
    "I don't want your pity" thing I discussed in an earlier post.

    As some of you know, I develop kidney stones relatively frequently. As a general rule, they pass without treatment besides good drugs to help me with the pain. The first time I got one, the pain was so intense I figured I had to be dying. Now, after several years of developing them on a more or less annual basis, the pain is as intense, but it is a familiar pain, one I know the cause of and one I usually don’t think twice about except when my supply of percoset is running low.

    That may have been part of my current problem. I see my urologist a couple of times a year, but I am not as faithful about that as I should be. In fact, when I went most recently in May I had skipped since last summer. Perhaps if I had gone sooner he would have discovered sooner what he discovered in May – that I have a huge, or as he put it, abnormally large, kidney stone in my system.

    That’s right. I have an inch diameter stone in my kidney that, as the good doctor put it, is not going anywhere by itself.

    I know, I know. It's teh Internets. Guy says he has an inch kidney stone, he probably has a half-inch kidney stone, maybe 3/4s. But my doctor said it was an inch, not me. And really, he has no reason to lie.

    My urologist gave me five options. First, try to shrink the stone to a size where it will pass. There are chemical methods by which stones can be shrunk. However, these take months, if not years, and are not always successful. He didn’t recommend that option.

    Option two is traditional surgery. Put me under, cut me open, cut open the kidney, take out the stone. Fairly effective at solving the problem, fairly invasive and effective at causing new problems. For instance, it’s tough to completely stitch a kidney up. Again, not on the recommended list.

    Option three is lithotripsy. Under lithotripsy, doctors bombard the kidney with sound waves, breaking the stone up sonically. I’ve had this procedure done before, and while it removed the stones (none quite as big as the one currently residing in my kidney), I was in the hospital for several days as I passed a lot of little tiny stones. Further, with a stone the size of what I currently have, the doctor thought I would need two treatments. The process would be go in the hospital, have the procedure done, be in the hospital a couple of days, go back for a CAT scan the next week to see how much was left, then go back into the hospital for a second round of lithotripsy. No thanks.

    Option four involves a relatively new procedure. A small hole is cut through my back down to the kidney. A camera is inserted until it locates precisely where the stone is. At that point, a suction tube is inserted to suck the kidney stone out. Recovery time is a bit more extensive than lithotripsy (probably three nights in the hospital), but the stone is pulled and nothing is left to pass. It’s also far less invasive than cutting the kidney open.

    There was a fifth option, but we both rejected it out of hand. Under this option, Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, and a crew of oil company drillers would be shrunk, injected into my body, work their way to the kidney, then drill a hole in the stone and plant a teeny-tiny nuclear weapon. The bomb would go off, blowing the stone to bits. We rejected this option because who wants a teeny-tiny nuke going off in their kidney? Certainly not me.

    After reviewing the options, I agreed with my doctor that option four was probably the best. So, I need to have surgery sometime in the next month or so. I’ve been putting it off until Lesa comes back because a: I need someone to look after the dogs for a few days, b: I need someone to look after me for a few days, and c: I really don’t want to spend three days in the hospital by myself. However, the frequency of pain has been increasing over the past week or so.

    I’ve been having incidents every day, several times a day if I do any strenuous work, like mowing the lawn or vacuuming the pool. For instance, I spent about a half hour this morning working on the pool after I first woke up. Not that I am usually a hard worker at 7:00 am, but the temperature for working on the pool was the best it has been for several days. Plus, the chlorine I put in yesterday really cleared the water up, making it easy to identify where I needed to vacuum the most.

    The drawback is that I have had pain since I got done, and I still have it. It’s tolerable if I just sit in one place, but as soon as I get up and walk around it gets bad. I started this post around nine, it’s almost three (work gets in the way sometimes), and I am still in pain. My evening is clear and I may go home to take a perc and rest. Problem is, if I take a perc, I’m pretty much non-functional for the next four-five hours. So I have to measure that factor against the extent of the pain.

    I would not wish kidney stone pain on anyone, and I worry that Ethan will suffer from it someday. It tends to be hereditary, and my father was in fact a sufferer. It’s a dull, throbbing pain – it feels like someone is hitting me in the side with a ball peen hammer every five seconds. For the past seven hours. I had a female former coworker who had two children who was a kidney stone sufferer who told me that as far as pain goes, childbirth had nothing on kidney stones.

    So if you see me walking, hunched over like a 70-year old, that’s why.

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