Warning: I’m going to talk about medical issues. Yuck.
TMI, TMI, TMI, TIM, TMI
Tim, you can go out of earshot while I whisper to my medically rugged friends about how I feel?
“Pray for me honey. I feel like shit.”
I remember when Mike’s grandmother said those very words over the phone when she was ninety-five or so. By that time, her life had become a misery of pain. I knew it and could never make myself offer any advice about handling it, no useful advice anyway.
Isn’t medical advice from people who are not doctors overrated? Seriously.
Here’s the deal: I have a kidney stone. Yes, it hurt like a bout of food poisoning when it started. Then, it went on and on. It put me on the floor of my bathroom. I figured if I laid down first, then I might not pass out and whack my head on the toilet. I’m not sure you all need the play-by-play, do you?
Going into the ER, shivering in pain, seeing flashy lights, having pukyness, and of absolute necessity, the Universe saw fit to put a few acquaintances in my path at the door. Great. I had been in the process of clutching at Mike to get out of the car, hyperventilating, and moaning. The woman I saw was nice and didn’t detain us or expect to chat. I like those people, but I still hated being seen like that.
I wore, as a fashion statement, a nice pink LLBean t-shirt, a pair of black track pants with dog hair all over them, no socks, ratty house slippers, and nice bright blue underwear. Of course, when they rolled my wheelchair into a room, they got me out of my lovely pink LLBean t-shirt ratty slippers, and furry track pants and into a hospital gown, letting me keep my bright blue underwear. Apparently, what my mother told me about wearing nice underwear in case I got into an accident was good advice. Who knew?
Do you think my handsome ER doc judged me based on my pretty underwear because after that, I proceeded to writhe around on his gurney flashing my backside for a while until he decided to give me something for pain. He was pretty quick.
Dilaudid, an opiate.
“Do I have to worry about becoming addicted?” I asked my nurse when she came in with a box of syringes.
“No, when you’re in extreme pain, it interferes with addictive conditioning. But that’s a good question.”
That sounded good, but I still worried about it a little. I didn’t want to imagine myself looking for that skeletal drug dealer in Fall City with open sores on his face and the soul sucked out of his eyes.
I said yes to the dilaudid, extra strength Tylenol, and a prescription for the prostrate. The nurse was going to give it all to me in my IV tube after she played with the computer.
“I don’t have a prostrate though, do I?” I asked her as she typed.
“It turns out that it also dilates the …..(insert here the technical term for pee pipe between my kidney and my bladder),” she said.
“Okay then,” I said. “Go for it.”
Then she scanned my arm band like I was produce in the checkout line, tested my IQ by asking me my name and birthday, and plunged relief into my IV tube.
Define dilaudid. A liquid that rushes into your veins, makes you weight five times what you already weighed (thanks for that), and spins you around like the spiral on one of the newer roller coaster rides. Who needs Wild Waves when you’ve got a friendly nurse with a syringe full of tilt-a-whirl?
And that went on for a few hours until they told me that my CAT scan showed that I had a one centimeter in diameter rock trying to bore its way out of me like Bertha under the Alaskan Way viaduct.
“It’s Olympic size,” my doctor said. Had I won some kind of prize? Was there a cash award?
Then, he sent me home and gave me a bunch of pills that would take a whole lot longer to relieve my pain. He said I could possibly pass my asteroid out of my body on my own but he doubted it and that I should come back if the symptoms increased.
In the meantime, I was supposed to strain my pee in case that sucker fell out without me realizing it. Hell no. I would have realized an asteroid just passed between my legs. Besides, I wasn’t going to pass that sucker, was I?
That was Monday.
On Tuesday, I asked Mike to come home early. I have no recollection of the previous hours except to say that they lasted a lot longer than normal hours ever did. Time is pretty springy with pain and dilaudid, like a slinky. Fast for fun and slow for the worst moments. It didn’t take Mike long to get me back to the ER that afternoon
Once we got there, we had a bit of time alone in the room.
“You’re a hot mess,” he said more than once when he escorted me into the bathroom to pee. I couldn’t manage peeing and straining it on my own. After that, I couldn’t get the dispenser for the hand wash to drop into my shaking hands. I was dizzy, grabbed at the handicapped handrail, leaned on the wall or Mike when I could.
I looked into the mirror as I washed my hands - big bags under my eyes, gray skin, greasy hair pressed up on one side and presumably flat in the back. Lets not talk about the open back of my gown or my old underwear. Plus, I stunk from pain sweat. This kind of work isn’t for beauty queens.
At the ER this time, I I’d worn an older pair of black underwear with a stretched out waistband underneath my ensemble. Somehow, the whole ER crew had a harder time staying ahead of my pain that day. Do you think they were unimpressed with my underwear?
Or was it that I waited too long to ask for another ride on the dilaudid spiral?
Or maybe it was the guy in the other room yelling, “Fuck, FUCK! Get your fucking hands off me! Fuck.” I got Mike off his earbuds so he could listen to the show. We needed a show.
“Fuckers. You don’t fucking ….” and then the volume was turned down too low to hear what he said next. We could hear grappling. Then, a bunch of things crashed to the floor and broke. There was another hollow bang and the wall bounced. I was glad it didn’t sound like he had a gun. But I imagined one of those nice nurses being thrown into a wall as she tried to help.
“Code grey, please, code grey,” an announcer said over the intercom.
Code blue means someone is dying, right? Well, now you know that Code Grey is an asshole breaking the ER and threatening dedicated people in it. Somebody big needs to get there STAT to sit on the asshole so he can be sedated, completely. I too felt like complete shit, but I wasn’t going to body slam my caregivers.
That was the best part of being in the ER, the show. Well, and the nice doctors and nurses. And Mike staying with me and rubbing my shoulder when everything hurt too much. He’s a keeper, that man.
Eventually, I felt a whole lot worse, maybe a little worse than when people I barely knew saw me coming into the ER on Monday.
They took another scan and suddenly, my asteriod stone showed itself to be 1.5 centimeters and not moving. That’s about the size of a dime. Not too big, you think? Oh that’s big.
I was trying to give birth. I had had an epidural and a C-section when Nick was born because his head was bigger than the opening in my pelvis. Don’t tell Nick I compared him to a kidney stone. He was a much more pleasant outcome than passing a kidney stone will be.
Creatinine went up. What the hell did that mean? My kidney was unhappy.
Plus, the asteroid stone blocked the tube into my bladder (that medical term again) so my kidney was backing up with fluids. The ureter is the tube. Hydronephrosis means pee is backing up in your body because your kidney isn’t happy.
See, you’re reading something and learning at the same time. Don’t you love that? Science is amazing. What would have happened to me before science and medical people?
I would have fucking died.
So, I always figure that all of us knowing more science is better than not.
Plus, you now know that wearing nice underwear to an ER is a smart move.
Suddenly, they said they were going to give me a bed overnight in the hospital. Good. I couldn’t get comfortable in my gurney and the idea of going home was terrifying.
It took two or three hours to get moved in. Hurry up and rush.
Mike pulled the earbud out of his ear during a lull in my pain.
“So, if they gave you a choice between cutting off a finger permanently and not having any pain, would you do it in exchange for this?”
“Oh yeah. In a heartbeat,” I said. “I could relearn how to play the piano with nine fingers.
“How many times have you felt like that in the last couple of days?”
“I’d probably have seven fingers left.”
After that, I got to shaking uncontrollably and Mike called for the nurse. More drugs. I was on my course to becoming a drug dealer yet.
Finally, I moved, I got cozy in my new bed and they switched me to morphine. It was much less like riding a roller coaster in three times gravity than the dilaudid. But don’t they give morphine to patients who are about to die? I didn’t want to die.
I actually slept. Plus, I learned not to wait to long when my pain increased because the call center has to find a nurse and the nurse may have to ask the doctor. That’s what you should know about ERs and hospitals. Don’t wait for pain to become unbearable before you ask for meds.
Don’t wait to ask to be unhooked from all the lines to pee either. Sometimes that takes a little while.
My nurses were wonderful and patient. Should I list them? Nicole, Tatiana, Bobbie, and Emily.
I can tell you that it is the nurses that make a sick person get better in a hospital. They are conduits to care. These nurses were efficient, smart, funny, and totally caring.
In the morning, Wednesday, I actually felt well enough to sit a little upright and write in my notebook. Then, I relaxed and watched part of a movie. A Wrinkle in Time. I loved the beginning. As a dad, Chris Pine said all the right things to his children. But it got interrupted and I went back to sleep whenever I could.
Suddenly, it was time for my urological surgeon to place a stent up into my waterworks. Can we say she drilled some pipe in case that sucker of an asteroid tried to bore through me again. She even wrote her initials on the right side of my belly so she’d operate on the correct kidney. I like that. I have been autographed by the famous urologist. What was her name? Better than having my boobs signed by Howard Stern.
I did so well afterward that they let me go home after I ate something and walked around the floor for a while. I could see mountains out my window and the walk afforded a beautiful view of Tiger mountain.
As soon as I got home, I felt like shit again, not as bad as before though. My kidney is much happier, but girls, it feels like I jammed a tampon up inside me the wrong way and like I have a raging UTI.
In two weeks, I will go back to my wonderful urologist. I remember now. Dr. Kavasseri. I love Dr. Kavasseri.
She’s going in - I picture her like one of the girl ghostbusters- with a camera, a laser, and a fish net to blow up and capture the pieces of my stone. Or maybe she’s more like Bruce Willis in the movie Armageddon, drilling and nuking that asteroid so it can break into two big pieces and pass Earth safely. But he dies in the end of that movie, doesn’t he. I don’t want Dr Kavasseri to die in the end. She needs to live another day so she can drill pipes, blow up asteroids, and pull them out with a fish net for other people with kidney stones like me.
Thank you Dr. Kavasseri.
Thank you for listening, jules