Fucking hell! Those kidney stones are bastards! Once again, I had the unfortunate experience to be woken up in the middle of the night by the familiar, dis-pleasurable aching in my abdomen. I didn’t believe it at first- it was almost two years to the day since the last one, and again in the middle of a hot period. Brisbane had sweltered through 46 consecutive days over 30c. The doc, who was a Pom too, suggested I was still drinking English amounts of water, when I really should be drinking Australian amounts of water. Hopefully that’s all it is, and not some genetic pre-disposition to them.
Anyway, “Bing!” I’m wide awake and pacing the bedroom. This time however, I’m a little more prepared. It’s about half past midnight, and everyone’s asleep. I have a shower, and Wifey wakes up. I explain the issue. No ambulance, stiff upper lip. I decided I’ll drive myself to the hospital where they’ll fill me full of drugs, and in a few hours I can sleep it off and come home. I find some left over strong pain killers., and pop them, then jump in the car and hoof it up the motorway to the nearest hospital, which at that time of day is about 12 minutes away. I figure any dopey effect from the pills won’t kick in until I get the hospital, so off I go. A new high on the fuel consumption computer flashes at me, suggesting that I may wish to alter my driving style in the name of environmental friendliness, the tyres shedding tread in agreement. Global warming is fairly low on my agenda. A watery death in several decades from the rising seas is preferable to the imminent torment about to arrive on my doorstep. The pain is pretty uncomfortable, but I know it will worsen. Well that’s what happened last time anyway.
Hospital parking is notoriously difficult, but not at 1am. I pull up virtually by the door of hospital in the badlands, have a quiet word to myself, the stiff upper lip talking to, and wander inside. It’s busy. There’s a dude at the desk getting sorted out. I have to stand in a bit of a crouch, pretty uncomfortable really, but the three or four Endone I had before I left seems to have started working, and it takes the edge off. The desk becomes empty and I lollop on to the chair, and rest myself on the desk. The triage nurse has disappeared, and it feels like at least 10 minutes before she returns. I mumble something about kidney stone, and she beckons me inside. I feel a dozen or so imaginary knives deep in my back from the collection of sprained ankles, minor cuts, and three day earaches sat in the waiting room. Luckily, my sensitive nature is dulled by the pain, and my care factor is erased by the heady hit of the opiates rising in my system. Within a few minutes I’m on a stretcher, the bed rail my best mate- gripping on to it as if I was hanging from it over the abyss to deepest darkest hell, as the spasms wrack through me. A cannula goes in, a load of morphine, a few more doses, then some Fentanyl. A couple of jabs in my arm of anti inflammatories. It’s no fun. I remember apologising for the groans, and I try to endure like a good Englishman. I make up a few new swear words, and mix a few old ones together to try and channel the agony away in to the abyss. “C@nty bum fuck” raised the nurses eyebrow the most.
It goes on. Hour after hour of punishment. Wifey arrives mid morning the next day- Friday. She sits with me, but can’t do much. She drinks tea and watches the spectable unfold before her. Last time, after about six hours of trial by ordeal, the event was over. The stone pinged down the pan and I was good. Battered, bashed and hungover, but better. This time, it’s not moving. I get a scan. I can’t remember any of it, but afterwards I discover the stone is 3 times the size of the last one, and is stuck halfway down the tube that runs from my kidney to my bladder. To make matters worse, it’s in my good big kidney. I have a slightly over size normal one, and a stunty runty one, (which, of course, is the one anyone’s getting should I end up a match for any friends or family requiring a transplant. And I won’t even charge for it.) So my kidney’s all blocked up and swollen to twice it’s normal size, and my bloods are all over the place. When my oxygen saturation’s drop to about 85%, wifey prods me to encourage me to take a couple of breaths. After a while, she stops the prodding because when the machine alarms, she prods me, I breathe again, but then when the nurses arrive the alarm has stopped, and she looks silly. Anyway, that was her story, hopefully she wasn’t encouraging me to drift off, her eyes on the life insurance prize again.
Some bright spark in the emergency department decided all this beeping probably meant they shouldn’t give me any more opiates, if they wanted me to continue breathing with any effective capacity. I was still in pain. Anyone who has had a kidney stone will know it’s pretty rough, but I still hope I’m not being a wimp. “It’s just a stitch” my daughter texts me. The kind doctors thought they should move me right next to the doctors station and start me on a ketamine infusion, to help with the pain. Now if you’ve never heard of ketamine, that’s a good thing. It’s an anaesthetic drug that was first used for injured troops in Vietnam, and works by dissociating yourself from the painful experience, amongst other things, if you like. In other words, I was about to ripped off my tits….
When it started working, I remember trying to spit out some sort of disclaimer to Wifey, that anything I said in the next couple of hours was only true if it sounded good. Luckily, for most of the trip, I felt as if I had floated up into the corner of the room and was looking down on everything going on around the ED, and so wasn’t too talkative. Apparently, I didn’t confess to anything too deviant either. I was still in a bit of pain, but it wasn’t a throughly dis-pleasurable experience. After a couple of hours hanging from the ceiling like Spiderman, I returned to my corporeal body, with a bit of a bump, and the pain had subsided somewhat. Let’s call it 10/10 at it’s worst, and 6/10 when I’m full of analgesia. I was pleasantly surprised to find it around a 4. Cue new scan.
New scan, which I can’t remember having either, shows the stone is stuck at the entrance to my bladder, and my left side is full of fluid. One would have to assume it was piss. The doc’s decide to treat me to a transfer to hospital by the sea, so the urologists there can put a stent in, so all this fluid can drain away. I get some new tablets, and I’m feeling a bit chilled, as I cross the city in the back of an ambulance, with a couple of paramedics. I park myself in bed on the ward. They prepare me for surgery. Gown, stockings, and the like. I wait for the inevitable…
The doc tells me something big has gone down in theatres, and I’ll have to wait for the morning emergency weekend list. They pump me back up with pills and the nurses rustle up a culinary masterpiece for me. Four biscuits and a cup of tea, followed by an apple. Having been nil by mouth for over 24 hours, it’s a life saver. I bed down for the night, only woken a few times by the chuntering of the bloke in the bed next to me. He appears to be distressed that the nurses were dismissive when he suggested they took him for a shower. His instruction was that they lift all 100 or so kilos of him out of bed, over to the shower room, give him an all over shampoo, and tickle his balls for him. Ok maybe not tickle his balls, but the way the conversation was going, a happy ending was clearly on his agenda. In the middle of the night. Now this fella was only 15 or so years older than me, looked like a slick version of Ron Jeremy (for those not in the know, he’s a famous 1970’s porn star). He maintained that, despite being able to complete his activities of daily living himself, his wife bathed him everyday, because “that’s the sort of woman she is”. Needless to say, the nurses were not that sort of women, and when I awoke 5 hours later he was lounging in a chair waiting for his missus to come and soap him up. It didn’t look like she was coming fast enough, as he got her on the blower, and berated her for not being present to ablute him in the manner to which he was accustomed.
I was the lucky recipient of some sort pre-med pill, which kept me in the zone, and I just lay on the bed with Ronny J bending the ear of old mate in the bed opposite him, trying to drum up support that the nurses were indeed far too lazy, and couldn’t tear themselves away from their subsidised tea and biscuits. I got the nod that the theatre team were coming for me, and thought I’d try a piss before I go. And there is was. Roadblock ended. Finger out the dyke. Cork out the bottle. Whatever you want to call it. I shot a bullet from my gun, as a stone pinged out into the bottle. I called the nurse, she looked at my bottle, concurred with my diagnosis, and then poured in down the toilet. Hmm….
The docs sent me for a scan, I avoided theatre, and was back on the ward an hour later. The docs came round, told me the good news, and asked where the offending rock was. I mumbled something about giving it to the nurses, keen not to drop anyone in it, and off they went to locate my opal. 5 minutes later, they, of course, returned empty handed, and suggested it must have manifested itself ethereally from now on, but they would remind the nurses to keep precious stones and other loot from now on. I could phone wifey to get me and have some food.
Ronny J was on the phone again to his missus. It appeared she was downstairs, but as visiting hadn’t yet started, there she sat. Probably hoping that he’d be clean, and maybe even relieved, by the time she got there. Imagine his face when my family waltzed in and sat down. In his chair. I’ll never know if Ron got his wash, or his happy ending. Because my loving family whisked me away for an ice cream sundae at Macca’s next door, before I took a turn for the worse and was hit by “hospital lag” and had to hit the sack.
I had only just started back at work. Two nights of staying awake, trapped in the revolving doors of perception, unfortunately lead to one hell of a hangover, along with the battering and bruising of my insides. I had to take a couple of days off, and to my horror, became the person with no sick time. My cancer op had wiped it all out, and I’d only been back a week, and hadn’t accrued anymore. My own worst critic, on paper I looked like a slacker. I mentally flagellated myself and made a note to not take any more days off.
In other news, I continue in the role of cancer survivor, keen to get on with life. My waterworks seem fine. Sexy part warning….I can get a bit of lob on, but I hope it continues to improve over time. Wifey’s happy enough thank fuck. Following a barrel of pro-biotics, my errant bowel has stepped back in line, and I seem to be able to tolerate coffee again. Alcohol continues to seriously fuck me up, and so I’m virtually tee-total. I can’t see how it can be the surgery, maybe it’s the Viagra i have to take daily, or my BP pills, or maybe it’s just because I have stopped drinking a beer or a wine every day. Whenever I have a drink, I sweat torrents and get super stuffed up in my nose and sinuses. Who knows how that will go. My discharge summary, from last weeks kidney stone, came the other day. All these blood tests and scans picked up that I’m still a bit anaemic from the surgery, and I’ve got a fatty liver, so stopping the booze is probably for the best. The anaemia may have accounted for the fatigue over the last few months, and so hopefully that’s all on the up too.
Finally, you may remember that I mentioned my on-line friend Jim, who was blogging away about his journey with metastatic prostate cancer. We read and commented on each others blogs, and sent emails to one another once in a while. Jim died at the weekend. I think he was 63. He couldn’t be cured, but we talked as if he had months, maybe longer, before the end of the road. Turns out it was just weeks and he was still writing until very recently. That lovely man was an inspiration, and although I never met him, I will miss him, and grieve as if he was my family. RIP.