John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Kidney Stones

kidney stoneOur family is comprised of my wife, Rebecca, our son, Johnny, our daughter, Maggie, and our two dogs, Macy and Winston.

But on Monday we had–not what I would call an actual addition to the family–but a temporary intruder that has introduced himself (or herself) into our extended family. After several hours of agonizing pain in my lower back a CAT scan confirmed I had given birth to a small calcium deposit more commonly known as a kidney stone.

The process of birthing a kidney stone is cruelly painful. It feels like a tiny army has invaded your body and is attacking your lower back with miniature jackhammers.

I have been told repeatedly that a kidney stone is the most painful condition a man can experience—“like childbirth.” OK then. I’ll treat that way. I’m going to give my calcium deposit (or kidney stone) a proper name while it is residing swimmingly in my bladder waiting to burst out into the universe.

Buster has a nice ring to it. And I think I’m calling it a he.

For real childbirth the gestation period lasts about 38 weeks –or 266 days, on average. But for a male to create and discharge a fully grown calcium deposit is much a much shorter gestation period—about 3 or 4 days. Tops.

A dog’s gestation period is  61 days. A cow’s 279 days. The only thing on the shorter end of the spectrum even close to a man’s incubation period for a calcium deposit is a fly. Flies have gestation periods of about 4 days. But it’s not really gestation because they lay eggs. But they get it all done in 4 days and the only thing close to what I’m doing now with my kidney stone. I looked it up on the internet.

So, back to Buster. Our newest family member, sort of. I’ll be giving birth to him shortly. I’m in Day Three of my gestation period. The doctor expects Buster to be birthed (or “passed”) tomorrow, provided I drink lots of water and take Flomax. The male/kidney stone equivalent of Lamaze.

How did I find out I was “with stone?”

It all started late Monday afternoon. Day One was just awful. I didn’t think I had done anything  deserving  punishment….but the nurse–trained to read the body language of patients– knew immediately something was wrong with me when she walked into my hospital room and I was screaming at the top of my lungs “Oh God. Ohhhhh God!!! Oh God! OH GOD!!! Please help! OH GOD!” She asked me to point to the pain and I pointed to my lower right back.

My wife was shushing me and I waved my finger angrily at her and said, “No! No!  Don’t shush me! Screaming it the only thing that helps distract me from the pain!”

Admittedly, it was not my finest moment as a husband. Or hospital patient. And I later apologized to both Rebecca and the hospital staff.

As wimpy as I felt for making all that noise, I was grateful the nurse knew exactly what to do. She administered a pain medication that sedated me and then took me in for a CAT scan. A CAT scan sounds like it could be fun. Something with a small furry house pet like our dogs, Macy and Winston. But it’s not. At all. It’s really boring. They put you on an oscillating bed and slide you back and forth through this giant contraption that takes pictures of your insides. That’s it.  There are no cats anywhere. I guess the main take away about my reflections on the CAT scan is that the pain medication was working well.

About 30 minutes later a doctor came into my room and told me that I was about to be a proud father of a small calcium deposit. (Those weren’t his exact words, but you get the idea.)

jyb_musingsI asked how big was my creation. The doctor said 2mm. “Smaller than average” and it should drop into the bladder soon “because it’s so small.”

I felt slightly self-conscious and think the doctor was embarrassed for me not being able to create a bigger kidney stone.

Feeling relief from the pain medication I felt more like myself and asked the nurse if she’d seen any other men with kidney stones this week.  She said she had several kidney stone patients recently. After a pause, I asked, “How big was my kidney stone compared to the others?” I blushed while awaiting my answer and explained, “It’s a guy thing.” The nurse said, my stone was “big enough to cause a lot of pain” but wouldn’t offer a comparative opinion. I took it that my kidney stone fell on the small side. Maybe the smallest. The “runt” of all the stones seen recently in this hospital.

I was discharged with medicine, directions to drink lots of water and given a paper sifter to capture Buster when he was ready to meet the world. I returned Tuesday with no stone. The doctor wasn’t surprised and said it sometimes takes “several days to pass.” That’s all well and fine but I could tell he felt like I wasn’t trying hard enough and should really try to put my heart into it more.  I was a little depressed—disappointed in myself, I guess, for not delivering.

Then again I am 50 years old. Birthing a calcium deposit at my age isn’t as easy as it sounds.

I am proud but hope this doesn’t affect my diet. Because in a way I am eating for two now.

As the nurse checked me out for the last time, she said to me routinely “I hope you feel better.” I said, I “didn’t feel that.” And added, “I don’t think your heart was in it.” She laughed and tried again and I said, “Better…but ….no…not really.” The third time was a charm and I left with us both laughing….kind of cool way to end an awful experience.

And soon–maybe tonight—Buster will pass. Pass into this universe –ever so briefly—and then get flushed into oblivion. OK. I know. Buster is just a calcium deposit. But he is my calcium deposit. And as painful and miserable as a kidney stone is to experience, it is possible—if you try really hard like I am doing now—to find something positive in even the most miserable experiences. A silver lining, if you will—that is un-phased by the jagged edges of my little runt of a kidney stone that is about to be introduced, albeit briefly, to this amazing but sometimes very painful world.


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