Thursday morning I woke up with the most God awful pain imaginable. Then it got worse. Having started in my stomach, the pain crawled around to my left flank and kind of posted permanent camp there. It was a pain that felt rather like a foot-long knife had been thrust into my back and then left there. It was throbbing, constant, unbearable, excruciating. Sweat began pouring out of my skin, dripping off my nose, running down my neck.
This, folks, is what it feels like to have a kidney stone. Not just any sort of stone, but a stone roughly the size of a cell phone, or a medium sized poodle. But I did not know this at the time. All I knew was that if there had been a nearby cliff to jump off of, I would have jumped.
My wife managed to get me into some clothes, and off we went to the ER. It was 10 o'clock in the morning by then, and the pain had started at about 8:00.
Two doses of IV morphine, followed by IV Dilaudid, had no effect whatsoever. This is the kind of pain that defeats the most stoic or stoics, forcing out groans and other tortured objections like the last bits of toothpaste from a twisted tube.
I was wheeled down the hallway to the CT scanner, then wheeled along to the x-ray suite.
"Okay, lie still now," the tech says.
Sure, no problem. Should I levitate while I'm at it?
Poodle sized stone having been confirmed, I was now wheeled back to the ER and given IV Toradol.
Hallelujah! At last, here was something to dent the pain. Just keep it running, wide open, that's all I could want. Life-threatening overdose seemed perfectly acceptable.
"Wow, that's one heck of a big stone," the ER doc says, admiring the CT images. "I don't think you'll be passing that on your own."
And so I was admitted, and transport was sent for.
Three hours later they arrived with a wheelchair. I, my wife, and our various baggage left for the fourth floor. Later in the evening, I was told, a urologist would remove the stone.
It was at about that time when women from the Indonesian community began to bring food to my wife. Rice, noodles, chicken, fish--you name it. I, of course, was not being allowed to eat, given the upcoming surgery. I wouldn't have wanted to in any case.
Once again we went through the patient identification process with yet another nurse. In a hospital there is no communication whatsoever between one department and another, between this floor and that. Over and over the patient undergoes interrogation.
By and by the urologist who would later be rescuing me from my own kidney stopped by the room. In order to outline for me what he would be doing, the doc drew a quick picture on the chalkboard. This picture was intended to depict the bladder, ureter, and prostate. To me it looked more like a child's rendition of Mickey Mouse's head and ears.
"So you have MS?" he said. "That's going to be a real problem down the road. Sometimes you'll be peeing like a baby, and then sometimes you won't be able to pee at all."
Why, I wondered, was he sharing this? I mean, just now? Why?
"A friend of mine just recently died of MS," he continued. "It's a terrible disease, isn't it."
I hardly knew what to say. Right now I was not worried about MS. I was thinking only of my kidney.
"Well, don't worry." He patted my arm. "When the time comes, we'll be there for you."
This was . . . comforting.
It was probably about 3 o'clock by now. My wife turned on the TV set, and someone brought her some more food. They set themselves up at the small table on wheels and imbibed.
The nurse on the unit sent for transport to the operative suite.
About four hours later, it arrived.
And at last came the perfect cure for the unbelievable pain of a kidney stone: Unconsciousness.
They put me under, and I don't know what happened for the next couple of hours--although I was able to pretty well guess that something, maybe a small hacksaw, had been shoved up my penis all the way to my left flank, and that a black string had been left hanging out, tied into a loop.
"Whatever you do, don't pull on that string," the good doctor warned.
And so it is Saturday now, and here I am at Starbucks, just hanging around with my string. They had left in a stent, you see, in order to keep the bladder outlet from closing, and this string will be part of me until Monday afternoon. The stent also, unfortunately, mimics the pain initially caused by the stone itself, but only when you urinate. Which you have to do every 10 minutes or so.
I can't help but remember the good old day--those days when my only worry was multiple sclerosis.