In Search of the Stone

kidney-stoneI fervently believe that, for a poor soul of advanced years, I am in relatively good health.  Oh sure I have some arthritis and those trips to the restroom seem to come more frequently but in light of my age I find that my body seems to function as designed by nature.  I have noticed that as I age gravitational forces seem to be stronger as my height has lessened and my once taught skin has become loose and some once visible bones are now hidden.  But I’m told that all these things are just part of getting older.

After several months of intermittent episodes involving severe pain in the lower right portion of my back I decided to seek the advice of a physician.  I believed I knew the cause of the pain as I had experienced similar symptoms in the past; a kidney stone had most likely been born in my kidney and was traveling down the ureter on its way to the bladder.

It seemed as though I experienced a bout with this ailment every five or so years but the pain typically lasted only four or five hours then passed with no noticeable or lingering affects whatsoever.  But, this time the pain made its appearance every few days, subsided then reappeared.

I had made plans to visit my son over the Christmas Holliday and didn’t want to suffer through the bouts of discomfort so I made an appointment to undergo an examination with a local urologist.  The timing of my visit was critical as I, as I have already stated, wished to enjoy a carefree visit with my son, my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter.

As I sat in the examination room, I wondered what magic treatment might be recommended and when that remedy might be implemented.  After speaking with the physician and explaining my history and the details of the current issue there were several moments of silence.  “We need to schedule a CAT scan.  Once I get the results of that procedure we’ll know what action to take.”  Without any hesitation I said, “let’s do it,” believing that the sooner something, anything, was done the sooner the pain caused by that tiny stone would end.

The CAT scan was conducted and I was surprised as to the simplicity of the procedure.  I was asked to lie on a table and remove any clothing with metal fasteners near the soon to be scanned areas of my body.  The table was then maneuvered by the technician placing the lower right portion of my back inside a tunnel.  “Take a deep breath and hold it,” the technician said.  She uttered those words several times and after only a few seconds she would say, “Ok, you can breathe.”  That was easy enough, and the whole process lasted no more than fifteen minutes.

I left the room wondering how long I would wait before hearing from the doctor’s office regarding the results of the scan but, as it turned out, my wait was not an extended one.  The following morning, and then only a mere five days before Christmas morning itself, the telephone rang.  I answered the early morning call saying “hello,” and at the same time looked at the displayed digits on the phone’s caller ID screen.  I knew the call was from the doctor’s office.

“Hello, this is Kim with the doctor’s office.  I’m calling to give you the results of the CAT scan”.  “Ok, go ahead,” I said.  “The scan showed a stone in the right ureter and the doctor recommends getting rid of it.”  That was great news, “I also want to be shed of it.”  The woman on the phone continued; “Can you be at the hospital at 2:30 P.M. this afternoon at which time the doctor will perform the procedure.”  The sooner that the, what must surely be meteor sized object was gone, the better as I had scheduled my trip’s departure for the following morning.  “Sure, I’ll be there.”

Using a non-invasive procedure known as Shock Wave Lithotripsy, SWL, I thought the stone would be blasted into many small pieces which would, without notice, exit my body.  While the nurse inserted an IV into my hand we talked about the weather, the upcoming Christmas day and anything else that might distract me from that needle that penetrated the skin on my hand.  After a few minutes the doctor, dressed in green shirt and pants, entered the room.

“Well we’re going to get that kidney stone and I’m sure you’ll feel much better very soon.”  “Get?” I asked.  “Yes, I’m going to use an invasive procedure known as Ureteroscopy to remove the stone.”  I can tell you that I certainly didn’t like the sound of that one bit.  The term invasive procedure, as you might imagine, was cause for concern.  Where, how and with what manner of device was my body going to be invaded?  Before my concerns could be voiced the doctor once again began to speak.  It was if my questions had been written on my face.

“I’m going to insert a small fiber optic instrument in you, locate the exact location of the stone and with the use of a cage-like instrument, grab it and pull it out.  “Ouch,” I thought; A large volume of mechanical equipment being forced into a sensitive part of my body; cameras, cages etc.; Oh my.

Well the procedure went well and as I awoke from the anesthesia the doctor came into the room.  With a reassuring smile on his face he said, “Everything went well and that pesky stone is gone.”  “What a relief,” I said.  As I quietly wondered if any heavy equipment had been mistakenly left inside me he raised his arm, opened his hand and while holding a small plastic container said, “Here is that 3mm jagged bit of calcium that caused all the trouble.”  “Hmm,” I said.

I’m feeling much better now and want no more details regarding the fiber optic instrument, the basket or the procedure in general.  As they say, “All’s well that ends well.”

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