As I was walking in to work this morning, I felt a familiar and forboding twinge in my lower back. Two minutes later, as I was just taking my coat off and sitting down at my computer, it was clear I was returning to Kidney Stone Hell in short order. And I do mean short order. There is a pain escalation that is now very familiar to me. It takes about two minutes from the time you feel a little funny feeling in your back to the point at which breathing and walking becomes impaired, and after that you probably have about five minutes until you are more or less incapacitated by severe pain.
During those five minutes my boss and I walked down to our corporate health center. There isn’t a whole lot they can do for me there other than give me a private room to cry out in pain and huff and puff to try to regulate my pain, but at least that was something. The worst part about having kidney stones (other than the pain itself) is that there’s nothing anybody else without a needle and great pain medication can do for you, and I feel bad for them having to watch me suffer while they stand by helplessly. When family members or very close friends aren’t available, privacy is a good thing when you are in extreme duress and beyond much help.
This time the pain lasted about 45 minutes, and then it was gone, almost as suddenly as it came. Although I would have gladly taken some Nubain had some been available, I can say that there is no pain medication or drug I have had to date that can match the pure euphoria that comes when your body pulls out of such intense pain on it’s own. The pain basically stops once the stone completes it’s journey through the ureter and enters the bladder, and I don’t know if that tells the brain to release some endorphins or what, but if that feeling of relief could be bottled and sold we’d have a lot of problems licked.
I spent the rest of my day at my urologist (I’m not happy that I actually have someone I call “my urologist”…), and then home sleeping. Going through a physical ordeal like that (and today’s was especially bad) basically wipes you out for the next several hours. Right now I’m fine, but I’m waiting for results from a CT scan to help figure out what’s up with my kidneys. I don’t expect any bad news from a long-term health perspective, but it sucks having this hanging over my head, knowing that basically at any time I could be five minutes away from an hour’s worth of excruciating and very obvious pain.
Of course, if this is the worst health problem I have in my life I’ll gladly take it. That hour of pain really, really sucks, but I also know I am going to walk away from it eventually, and a lot of people don’t have that luxury, so I try to keep that perspective. But I admit, for that hour, that’s a tall order. People say the pain is equivalent or worse than that associated with labor or giving birth; I’m not going to go there, because I obviously don’t know what that experience is like, and I sure have never needed to be stitched up after having a kidney stone. But make no mistake–it sucks real bad.
I’m starting to feel like that Chris Farley character on SNL who always had heart attacks, then just sort of toughed them out and kept right on going with whatever he was doing. There is a certain amount of character-building or perspective that I think is gained by going through a pain event like this, but I have plenty of character already, thank you.