Friday, August 1, 2008

Kidney Stones (part 1)

The Good Book says we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” but sadly, we live in a fallen and broken world where there is something wrong with everything, my kidneys not excluded. The kidneys, when healthy, filter out waste products from the blood and secrete the nasty’s on to the bladder and then out of the body as . . . well, you know . . . number one . . . pee . . .

For some unknown reason, I am in that 10-15% of adults in the United States that have been diagnosed with a kidney stone. The way I understand it, some of the chemicals found in my urine are able to crystallize, concentrate, and precipitate into solid deposits on the kidney walls to form the ‘stone’. These crystals can grow through a process of accretion to form a kidney stone. My particular stone composed of calcium oxalate crystals.

I have been dealing with kidney stones for the past couple of years. The first time was the result of my stupidity for going on a ‘grapefruit diet’. While I did lose weight, I woke up in the middle of the night about two weeks after I started and felt like somebody kicked me in the groin. I was certain that I had somehow ruptured my appendix while I was sleeping and was soon to be departing this world. The pain was so severe that I rolled out of the bed and fell to the floor, crawled to the bathroom and vomited. I cannot say how long I agonized as time cannot be measured when each second is as painful as the one before it. It was all I could do to get dressed so my wife could take me to the emergency room at a local area hospital.

Having been through this routine in the past, I now realize the situation is not fatal; however, that does not lessen the severity of the symptoms. Last year, right before the holidays, I went to the emergency room in the middle of the night for another kidney stone that had developed. While I passed that particular stone the next day, the x-rays showed that each kidney had a 5-6 mm stone growing. I was referred to a urologist that recommended a lithotripsy which is a non invasive surgical procedure that uses high power sound waves to break the stones up into little bitsy pieces.

My first experience with the lithotripsy was a scary one. I was checked in to the surgical unit and just walking into the pre-op area was a surreal experience. It was kind of like going to the doctor’s office only they made me get undressed so I could wear a light green hospital gown that only covers the front leaving most of my posterior exposed to the draft. The nurse that helped me was very kind and made a world of difference in my experience. She even offered to tie the gown up in the back to provide me some semblance of dignity. She proceeded to take all vital sign measurements and started an IV and answered all the questions that I asked.

My urologist came in and spoke with me and physically marked the side he was working on with a marker.

The anesthesiologist also came and also spoke with me. Anesthesiologists, I have learned, are physicians that have completed four years of graduate doctoral training after gaining a general degree and doing at least four more years of residency. My anesthesiologist had the primary responsibility of protecting me while I was unconscious. I was told all surgery involves some risks and general anesthetics can affect critical life functions like breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. Little did I know, the one that I only thought of as “the gas man” was actually the one that was there to immediately diagnose and treat any medical problem that arose during my treatment.

When it was time to go, I was visited by a certified registered nurse anesthetist who gave me a couple of shots, a chemical cocktail of sorts, which would sedate me. Things kind of get hazy and surreal after that and I can barely remember being moved from the gurney to the table. I did notice a huge hot water bottle like feature but my brain was to fuzzy to understand what it is or what it is for. I try to see what is happening around me but the chemicals in my blood are making me indifferent to what is going on. I watch an oxygen mask come down over my face and I am told to take some deep breaths and then . . . nothing. No dreams, no visions, no pain or awareness. No sense of time or space. I wondered if this is what it is like to be dead.

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