Web Log Entry #0078, Sunday, August 3, 2003: Day 258
Anchorage Sunrise: 5:35am Sunset: 10:34pm High Temp: 64° Low Temp: 51°
I was in tremendous pain when I went to the Hospital Monday morning. (A Hospital? What is it?...) Be aware that this entry isn't as humorous as most, and involves some icky medical things, so I won't be too offended if you skip it. If you want to know what happened, read on:
It started last Sunday night. I thought I had tweaked something in my back, after a rainy weekend of too much slouching on the couch watching movies. To be fair, I've had that happen before. Usually, though, such back pain responds to cold packs and lying down. This didn't. It was an intense, sharp pain to the right of my spine, about kidney level. It lasted, unabated, through a miserable, miserable night and the aspirin I attempted just got tossed up Monday morning. I had told Stan that I was hurting and might want a ride to the ER, but I finally had enough when he was in the shower, and drove myself.
Why didn't I go earlier? It's not that I'm masochistic. I've gone to a regular doctor for back pain, and unless you qualify for immediate disc surgery, they tell you Tylenol and bedrest. So I wasn't eager to go to the emergency room for that advice. After ten hours (what was I thinking?) of excrutiating pain, I just couldn't take it any more.
If you ever need to go to the emergency room in Anchorage, early Monday morning is a great time. There was nobody else waiting. The nice triage nurse asked a few questions and took me back right away. Right after I changed into the standard hospital smock, a doctor showed up, asked more questions, and said I probably had a kidney stone. They'd do a CT scan to be sure. I probably only waited a few minutes after he left for the nurses to arrive, but when you're in a chilly room with a smock and a sheet and intense pain, it's very hard to gauge time very well. They brought with them an IV and an injection of a painkiller, those blessed angels. I don't remember exactly what it was. It took a few minutes for it to take effect, but the pain just WENT AWAY. I didn't feel dizzy or drugged; I just no longer hurt. It was so, so good.
One of the great things about reaching that state in the ER is that from there, I had the easy job. I rode the cart to the CT scan. I did have to raise my hands over my head and hold my breath, but along the way I got a blanket and I could just lie on the bed and not... do... anything. And I didn't hurt. I loved all those people who cared for me, even the man who asked about insurance.
The doctor returned and confirmed that it was a kidney stone, about 2mm, which was now down by my bladder. He prescribed painkillers, a strainer to trap the stone when it finally "passed", and said I had to drink a gallon of juice or sports drink a day. Since I wasn't hurting, I felt okay to navigate to the grocery store to get the drugs and drinks, and head home.
Over the next three days, I learned that the pain pills did reduce the pain, but also upset my stomach and made me sleep. I think I was awake for about three hours on Tuesday (just like a cat!). By Wednesday I was getting quite good at peeing through a strainer, but I noticed a pinkish tinge. I was bleeding. There are a very few acceptable ways for blood to come out of me, and having it excreted from a sensitive and treasured body part was VERY upsetting. I called the Advice Nurse for my insurance provider. She said that bleeding was possible, so monitor it, and it should stop soon. Well, it fluctuated (not surprising, since I was drinking a gallon of watered-down Gatorade daily, which made for frequent trips, if you know what I mean), but it didn't stop. I was feeling well enough on Wednesday, and had ratcheted down from the painkillers to just a few Tylenol, to plan on returning to work the next day.
After a virtually pain-free night, I felt great until I sat down to eat breakfast. My kidney IMMEDIATELY started hurting, badly enough to have to lie down for a few minutes. I wondered what to do. I tried sitting again, and it was better. I was a bit pessimistic when I realized I was still bleeding, but I collected the necessary equipment, and went to work.
If you're squeamish, don't read this bit: When I went to the restroom at work: blood clots. Now, having one's urine a bit pink or orange is bad enough, but this painted images of gaping internal wounds spewing forth ichor. I called the Advice Nurse again, and she agreed that this was worth a trip to the ER. I was taken back to the little room quickly, gave a urine sample that included more clots, and waited for a while. The doctor did show up, and said that bleeding and clotting were unusual, but not abnormal. Since I wasn't feverish, I shouldn't be in any danger. I wished I had known that earlier, but I was glad to hear it.
Since I had missed three days at a very bad time, Thursday and Friday were long work days (I will say that the client managers were ALL sympathetic and supportive, and nobody gave me grief for being gone, despite the unfortunate timing). At home my triangle was couch, refrigerator, bathroom; at work I merely shuffled from my desk to the restroom and back.
At 4:00am on Saturday morning, I was standing at the toilet again (did I mention I was drinking a GALLON daily?), and a reddish spot appeared in the strainer. In the manner of those who have seen horrible things enough for them to become tedious, I thought "Oh look. More blood." But on closer inspection, it was hard. Granular! A STONE! Hooray! I PASSED!
Mr. Kidney Stone is about 3mm across, sort of Pac-Man shaped, with sharp edges and pointy bits that explain the bleeding. They say only God can make a tree, but I made a rock! It's not a hobby I plan on continuing, however, and if you ever have the choice to "opt out" of the kidney stone experience, I highly suggest you do so. I suppose mine could have been much worse, as my complications were unpleasant, but not life-threatening.
(And a final note: I haven't seen anything yet for a bill, so I don't know what's it's like to deal with their accounting people, but the medical people at Anchorage Providence Hospital were all great; friendly, professional, and sympathtic to an Oregonian who just wanted the pain to go away. My thanks to them all....)
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© 2003 Evan M. Nichols