Princess and the Pea

11 12 2010

“Kidney stones themselves don’t hurt.” I had to suppress my laughter. My urologist truly does not appreciate what life is like as Princess and the Pea. Welcome to MY kingdom. Expect the unexpected.

In this kingdom, I once slit my finger open on some glass of a picture frame and some of the glass got into it. The ER physician said, “There, got it.” I said, “No, there’s more.” The blood pressure reading would suggest that I was correct. I asked him to please keep digging; I didn’t mind waiting as others triaged in, but this really, really hurt. He dug and poked and scraped a good 45 minutes until he found that very microscopic piece. He said, “Got it?” I said, “Yes, thank you.” The pain vanished, the wound was stitched and I went along my way to continue to rule over my lands.

I have weird autoimmune stuff and fibromyalgia developed after a bad car accident. I tend to be chronically, systemically inflamed. Things have improved greatly since 2005 when things came crashing to a head, landing me in the hospital for 5 days. Lifestyle changes were made. I have explored alternative medicine practices that some would consider on the fringe. Some have worked; the others have been expelled from the kingdom.

I’m pretty sure the kidney stones developed as a side effect of a medication I was taking for another problem; we did a scan before I was placed on the medication and I was free of stones.

It all started on 9/17 when a piece of a larger kidney stone (the mother pod) came off and decided to pull a Free Willy. That landed me in the ER and 3 days later in the urologist’s office where I demanded something be done immediately because I needed my life returned to my version of normal. I am ruler of the kingdom! Attend to me! I actually passed this stone in his office (exit, stage right).

Apparently I had two stones. The one in the lower pole of my left kidney measured 7 mm x 9 mm; the right one was in the upper pole, a mere seedling at 3 mm. At this point, I could not feel the right one at all. Surgery was scheduled for 10/1. The plan was to insert a scope, pull out what we thought was a stone obstructing (but it turned out to be something else; the stone the ER told me about had already passed), go up into the kidney and zap it with laser. Afterwards a stent would be placed with the idea of keeping the ureter open so the stone material could pass. Going into the surgery, I had images in my head of the pig lizard on GalaxyQuest. I wondered if the laser would be similar to the mining laser used to free Liara in Mass Effect. The stent will be forever renamed the coils from hell. They are banished from the kingdom.

Confidence was high that the stone was “shattered.” On followup, it appeared it was still 6 mm. I had to wait the appropriate amount of time to allow my body to pass what it was going to pass. My chronic inflammatory response kicked in. I have affectionately called the area under the left breast to my waist from the middle of my stomach around to the spine the “stone zone.” It can no longer be touched without pain. I’ve begun to get a right-sided stone zone as well. I wonder if this is a boxer feels after kidney punches? If so, why do people box?

During this time, my army (my antibodies) thought there was still a foreign invader in the land and I developed an infection. Say what you will about the horrors of kidney stones: I’ve gone down one full dress size. No pain, no gain.

With the infection cleared, I was now free to embark on another vacation destination of my choice. How about ESWL (extracorporeal shock-wave lithotripsy)? I’ve heard the place is seismic. Despite the effort and passage of some debris, the radiologist declared the left kidney stone to be still 6 mm. When it comes to patience with my son with autism, I have an abundance. With all other things in my life, not so much.

I’m now scheduled for the 3rd surgery on the left one, the 1st surgery on the right one coming up on December 21st.

I was confused about the use of the word “shattered.” The visual picture that comes to my mind is the Death Star in Star Wars. Apparently not. It is more like Patrick removing his wrapping paper from his presents (see An Autism Christmas).

This kidney stone is taking on the characteristics of its host (me): Obstinate, determined, likes to dwell in deep, dark places, loves the water (it must be a Pisces), sedentary. It must also like video games because the left side plays Pong with my kidney every day. This could be a new Syfy horror flick with a Saw-like twist in which it drives the host completely insane to the point that the host wants to open their own kidney just to remove it. Then, the stone is absorbed by whoever discovers the dead body, torturing its next victim. Where is Neo (from the Matrix) when you need him?

All my alternative medicine approaches to this pain have failed me. In the entire 11 years I have had fibromyalgia, there was only one time when I wanted to cut my legs off and the shower made me wince in pain. There was only one time when the doctor had to put me on 2 weeks of around-the-clock pain medication to break the pain cycle and that actually worked. When I delivered Patrick, from the time my contractions were about 8 minutes apart until the time I delivered him was a full 29 hours without drugs. Even after my car accident when I was in physical therapy for 4 months, daily for 6 weeks, I dealt pretty well with the pain. Here are some things that we have tried:

BodyTalk: Combines the wisdom of advanced yoga and advaitic philosophy, the insights of modern physics and mathematics, the energy dynamics of acupuncture, the clinical findings of applied kinesiology and western medical expertise. I’ve asked the kidney stone for its agenda. I’ve asked the kidney stone what it needs to expel peacefully from my body. Apparently I keep getting the answering machine.

Visualization: I’ve tried different images: The Death Star from Star Wars; shooting the Reaper-Human hybrid final boss in the XBox game Mass Effect 2 on insanity level. I’ve tried to think peaceful thoughts, but all I get is “get the hell out of me” pictures. I’ll have to work on some peaceful thoughts. I thought about the birthing process, but no, that would not work. After I had Patrick, I told Jeff he would have to have more babies with another woman because I was not going through THAT again.

Changing the pH: Lemonade (without sugar). Has not worked to make the stone any smaller yet.

Postural change: Drinking water about 30 minutes prior and then laying with my head/neck on a bed, my body on pillows so that my head/neck are lower than the rest of my body. Repeated several times a day. Perhaps I need to go bungee-jumping. One of my friends said their friend passed a stone after going on a rollercoaster. The doctor recommended jumping jacks, but I’ll have to get a better sports bra.

Craniosacral therapy, visceral manipulation, myofascial release, energy work, Psych-K–the list goes on.

So I turn to you, my readers, my knights in shining armor: Do you have any other ideas the Princess could try to get some relief? I’m ready to abdicate the throne here.


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11 12 2010
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12 12 2010
SquirrelyGurl

You are a riot. No tips to help, but enjoyed all the science-fiction references, especially Neo (it was just on today where he takes his hand and scoops out the bullet from Trinity’s heart). Hope the third time is the charm.

12 12 2010
PBMom

I’m glad you enjoyed it. Sometimes when things are really bugging me, like this issue, I always try to write it out to get it out of my system. It’s cathartic.

2 12 2012
Natalie

Hi, I came to this post by accident but couldnt leave without mentioning that Magnesium Sulphate (Epsom Salts) seems to stop kidney stones from forming. Non toxic and the only side effect you are likely to get if you take too much is diarrhoea as it is a muscle relaxant and relaxes your bowel. Good luck.

2 12 2012
PBMom

Thank you for the tip. I do use Epsom’s salts for an aching body (because of it’s muscle relaxing magnesium) and knew it could help with bowel movements.

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