Everyone seems to have their health issues they frequently have to deal with, especially as we are forced to admit we are getting older. I haven’t talked about mine much here because…. well, it’s kind of a delicate issue, particularly for my male readers out there. The bane of my existence is kidney stones, which have plagued me now for over a decade, and show no signs of letting up their grip on my inner plumbing anytime soon.
Even those who have never had to suffer from the consequences of a kidney stone have heard of their legendary ability to deliver some of the most intense pain imaginable. Women who have both given birth and dealt with kidney stones will almost universally tell you that labor pains hold nothing on the kind of intolerable, uncontrollable pain a stone can bring on. While I can’t vouch for the former obviously, I can tell you that a kidney stone attack is an absolutely soul-sucking experience that will make you want to claw through your side with your bare hands to remove the tiny nuisance….
Kidney stone pain is generally not caused by the stone itself, although if it is large enough, it can create a dull, annoying pain in the side, or even a nauseous feeling in your abdomen. I’m a veteran of enough stones to know when I have one even before I get that first attack. The actual intense pain of a kidney stone attack is caused when it lodges somewhere where it creates a urine blockage. The best advice I can give for someone suffering an attack is to drink drink drink plenty of non-caffeinated fluids to try to flush the stone to another more benign location…. preferably the exit.
My history with kidney stones has resulted in two emergency room visits, one hospitalization, three surgical procedures involving extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (which essentially breaks up stones using sonic waves), countless visits to my urologist, and many more medical bills than I care to think about. My largest kidney stone was a 2.5 centimeter diameter (one inch!!!) whopper three years ago that required two of those lithotripsy procedures to whittle away. My last two stones have both been 5 millimeters in diameter, and I have managed to pass both on my own. One last May, and the most recent this morning (in three installments since it was kind enough to break apart in my bladder).
I actually have both of these two most recent stones saved, and to gaze upon these jagged pieces of manmade rock and realize that they had to travel from my kidneys, through the very narrow ureters, to my bladder, and finally out you-know-what is enough to make even a grown man squirm. Moreso given that it usually takes a few days to travel that last tunnel, and there is no better feeling than having a jagged rock stuck in your (insert your own euphemism for the male organ here) while going about your business. That was my experience the last 12 hours or so, and I am glad that I have finally been set free from this Rock of Gibraltar, which first let itself be known to me with a brief acute attack in late June….
Given that I am one of the last people who will ever change my diet, and the gruesome history of stones that runs in my family, it’s a sure bet there will be more to come in the future. Luckily, my body seems to be pretty used to them now, and even with the last two whoppers I’ve given natural birth to, I’ve had a minimum of intense pain episodes with them…. whereas the kidney stone newbie will usually be floored by what essentially is a grain of sand. Until then, take my advice and drink plenty of fluids to keep the ol’ pipes flushed, or you too might get stoned like I do!