Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Kidney that Stoned

So, I recently had a kidney stone. It was hands down the worst physical experience of my life. Everything from now on will be measured by this truly incandescent episode of excruciating pain. It puts a lot of things in perspective.

I've been really healthy my entire life. Like, to the point of it being kind of annoying. No major illnesses. No broken bones, no bloody accidents. All limbs are secure. No hospital or ER visits for myself. My biggest physical problems have mostly been because of my mental illness making me hate my body. Which means I've taken that body and it's extremely good health for granted for quite a long time.

Well, not anymore.

Warning: TMI to follow. Sorry, but, it's important not to sugar coat life's realities sometimes. Mostly because we all have less than thrilling things happen and it helps to know you're not the only one who hated it.

Last Friday I took a nap. Everything was fine when I woke up, I watched some TV, did some work, and was contemplating going back to bed when I realized I needed to use the bathroom. Just like the other times I've done this, I had zero thoughts about it, other than getting it over with as I find bathroom time boring.

And that's when everything suddenly went wrong.

I felt this very, very, very , very bad pain in my lower right back. It was definitely in the region of the kidney. I did not register that at first since it's also a spot that tends to be weak. I thought, okay, if I just managed to put my back out going to the bathroom, that's even more WTF than when I put it out by pulling up my socks. I'll just breathe and take it easy.

Something felt...wrong. It kind of felt like when I'd put it out, but, it wasn't causing the same sort of radiating pain. And it wasn't coming in waves. It was just very, very, very intense. I walked around, I tried lying down, I took an Aleve. It got worse and then it got horrible. I woke Chris up to tell him that something was wrong and I wasn't sure what, but we might have to go to the hospital. Bless his heart, he was up like a shot.

I gave it about an hour and realized I was shaking, my teeth chattering, and I was nauseous. Okay, this was NOT at all like the time I put my back out. Those were not things that happened then. I think the words "kidney stone?" flashed somewhere in my brain, but I wasn't really able to hold on to any thought besides "Holy shit, this is the worst pain of my life. Something is really wrong, what is this, make it stop, hurts, ow, Ineedhelp,whatthefuck..."

We went to the ER. It was about 6am I think. The nurse who took my info looked at me and said "Have you ever had a kidney stone?". I looked at him and said, "Not until now, I guess." We didn't wait long before I was ushered into a room by Claude, a French nurse who was formerly in the Air Force. I had to pee in a cup. Then I put on one of those horrendous robes. They took blood pressure and temp, asked me questions, and took my pee cup. I sat with a blanket and stared at the ceiling, breathing. I really didn't know what else to do. It hurt so much that I couldn't think. I couldn't speak unless I had to. I didn't want to move but I felt restless (apparently a very common feeling with a kidney stone, although the fact that I didn't move around a lot concerned the doctor). My react to pain is to shut down, get quiet, and internalize it like whoa. It was obvious to me that yelling and complaining about it wasn't going to make it go away. So I waited.

I was hooked up to an IV, which was very weird. Suddenly your hand is this collection of tubes. Then they put me on morphine and anti-nausea meds. The morphine hit like WHOA. I went from kind of wanting to be unconscious/die, to not caring about anything at all. Ever. I don't know if it did anything to the pain, all I know is that I. Gave. Zero. Fucks. After about 5 hours of pain so bad I couldn't cry, it was like someone had shot me with joy.

At first they weren't sure if it was a kidney stone or an infection, because my pee test came back "suspicious". Which is a weird thing to hear about urine.

And that's when I also heard the dreaded phrase "need to use a catheter" to get a sample directly from the bladder. I had never had a catheter. I had heard stories. They scared the SHIT out of me. But my good friend morphine made me think, well, whatever, bring on the bladder tubes! Morphine is kind of a party girl.

A lady nurse came in. She told me they had to "clean" the area first with stuff that, wait for it...turns your bits ORANGE. She was like, just don't worry if you look down and it's orange after. I thought, great, well, this just got super weird. She asked Chris if he wanted to stay, and if I was okay with that. I was like, we're been together nearly 20 years. I have no problem with him being here, we're both going to get old at some point, and hey, I've seen his hands swell up into fluid filled sausages. Bring it. Again, he was a trooper. He held my hand. And it turned out to be, while not my favorite thing ever, much less awful than I'd anticipated. That sample turned up clean for infection. It was now time for a cat scan to officially diagnose this sucker as a kidney stone.

The cat scan was pretty soothing. It sounded like a washing machine. I realized that I hadn't shaved my legs in forever when I got up off the gurney. Oh well, it's probably not the worst thing any nurse has ever seen. Nearly guaranteed.

Back in the ER room the pain was coming back. They gave me some more something. And I suddenly knew. Just knew. That. I. Was. Going. To Vomit. NOW. Chris brought up the garbage can just in time. I kind of blinked at it for a minute. I hate throwing up. It's miserable and awful and I hated it since I was a kid. The nurse tried a different anti-nausea med and gave me some sick bags. I used up another 4 or 5 over the next hour or so. Apparently kidney stones cause it and so do the meds. The ER doc decided they wanted to keep me overnight for observation and pain management. Holy crap, I was going to be admitted to the hospital.

They took me up to a quiet, private room. It had a nice view of the mountains. It was probably 10 or 11am. I was exhausted. I kept nodding off only to be woken up by someone asking me questions, taking vitals, or throwing up. By that point I was throwing up so violently that if I had anything in my bladder, you guessed it, I'd pee myself. Dignity!

Oh! I forgot! I had to strain said pee to see if the stone passed. You get this plastic bowl thing that fits in your toilet, which you then pour into something that looked a bit like a coffee filter. Because of the IV hydration and stone, your pee gets this truly weird color and texture. That's right, I said texture. About pee. Folks, bodies are gross, I don't know what to tell you.

At this point I was able to go somewhere between 3-5 hours with the pain being mildish before getting bad again and needing another dose of something. They were trying out vicodin along with the morphine. I hate vicodin. Like a lot, I hate it. They gave it to me when I put my back out years ago. I took exactly one pill and threw out the the rest. This time, however, it made me sleepy and not hurt, so I gave up and took it. Chris took off for awhile and took a much needed nap. When he came back he brought me things like dry shampoo, face wash, and other things so I could feel more human. He also brought the ipad, my sketchpad, and other things for distraction. We watched a LOT of Ru Paul's 2nd season of Drag Race. He also stayed the night, which, god...I can't even tell you how lovely that was. They gave him a blanket and pillows and it just made it so much easier to be there when I could look over and see his feet as he slept.

I also have to take a second and say: the nurses and doctors were all extremely wonderful. Kind, supportive, sweet. Everyone checked in on me and told me I was doing well. They sympathized and did their best not to disturb me too much. I slept in about 4 hour shifts between meds and vital checks. They brought me saltines, towelettes to wash with, and ice chips. What was definitely not a great physical experience was made infinitely more bearable.

The doc and I decided the next day that I was ready to go home with meds. He felt sure that, due to the location of the stone, it should pass within 2-3 days. If it didn't or the pain/fever/vomiting whatever became bad, I would come back. I got wheeled out on what felt like a wheelchair for a giant.

The first thing I did when I got home was take a shower. I hurt, but I felt less disgusting after that. Chris picked up meds, saltines, ginger ale, water, and other things. And I settled in for about 3 days of hell.

Honestly, it's all a blur now. I took meds. I threw up. I played an absolutely stunning amount of Plants vs. Zombies. I kind of sort of did some work, but not really. My entire brain was set on either the, Oh god, Pain, setting or the Oh god, when will the Pain be Back? setting. You just can't think about anything else.

I had a truly epic vomit session on Tuesday that left me shaking and angry and tired. It had been 5 days and I just wanted it over. To add insult to injury: I got my period. That's right, my fucking uterus decided to get in on the action, because it was apparently pissed my kidney was getting to cause me all this lower back back. You guys, my uterus is a total dick.

I took a vicodin sometime in the wee hours, gleefully killed a lot of zombies with spores, and finally fell asleep. I had some pretty messed up dreams about teeth and peeing and god knows what all. At some point in the night I had a really weird sensation that I can't describe because it's just that weird. I'm not sure if I dreamed it or had it or both.

I woke up the next day to what seemed like the brightest sun. At first I couldn't tell what was different. Something was, I could feel it. And I realized it was what I did -not- feel that made a difference. I no longer had a horrible, stabbing, burning, all consuming pain in my kidney.

At first, I didn't want to get excited. I was like, well, it's probably just that the vicodin hasn't worn off yet. What time is it? I looked and realized it was at least 7 hours since I'd last taken one. That was quite a bit longer than I'd gone before. I didn't want to get my hopes up. But, well, you know. I fell asleep again.

When I woke up another 4 hours later I still did not feel the tell tale horribleness. Chris, who stayed home with me and took care of me and was just the best partner in the world through this, went about his business. A few hours later I told him I thought it had passed. I actually smiled and chatted with him that day, for the first time in awhile.

It's been over a day since then and I'm continuing to improve. I saw my doc and he said it probably went to my bladder, which is also fine. My back still feels week and out of sorts, but then I'm also crampy from my period and passed a goddamn STONE through my KIDNEY so I'm trying to be non-judgy and non-panicky about every single twinge.

I'm very shaky and have to eat pretty frequently because I'm on such a calorie deficit. I don't know what all I managed to keep down in those 5-6 days, but it can't have been much. My tummy is still sensitive so I'm being careful with what I consume. As someone with disordered eating and ED thinking, it's been very...weird. I was also a restrictor, not a purger, so being so nauseous and out of control of my body and my food was nightmarish. Ed was not a happy camper. He doesn't like it when he's not the one making me feel bad, and he's especially not happy that right now I'm like, yeah, fuck you, my body fat is AWESOME because you know what it doesn't do? Cause me horrible pain in the kidney.

Right now I'm in a very, my body is great, please to be fucking off now eating disorder, kind of place. I want to eat things and be kind to it and not give a single shit, fuck, or hooey about whether anyone finds it's aesthetically appealing. It got me through this horrible thing and I swear, I will never be unkind to it again. I am going to feed it good things and hydrate it a LOT and take it on walks and stop being so mean. Things could be so much worse.

My new bar is, as I think should be obvious: Is it as bad as a kidney stone? I have a feeling that the answer is mostly going to be no. And hopefully I never get one again.