Tuesday, February 17, 2009
WHO MOVED THE STONE?
I write this blog with apologies to Frank Morison who has written a wonderful book with the same title about the scientific proof for the literal resurrection of Christ.
However, the stone I’m writing about isn’t as large or significant as the stone that was rolled away from the tomb of Jesus. My stone was a pernicious kidney stone.
I’ve never had a kidney stone before, but I’ve been associated with two guys who had kidney stone attacks. The first one was when I was in college on a youth retreat. Robert, a tough guy who played college basketball, was one of our leaders. About 1:00am he woke me up with his face drenched in sweat and a wild look in his eyes. He said, “You’ve got to drive me to the hospital.” So I loaded him into the back of my 1972 Plymouth Satellite Sebring and we took off for the 40-mile drive to Jackson Hospital in Montgomery, Alabama. He was sitting/lying/climbing the walls of the back seat while his wife was trying unsuccessfully to hold him down. He was screaming with a guttural roar that sounded like an angry male moose. I’m driving thinking, “Come on, suck it up, it can’t be that bad.” Yes it can.
My second vicarious kidney stone experience happened in seminary. I was singing in the Easter cantata at the church where I served as Associate Pastor. Halfway through the performance, Barry (the minister of music) suddenly turned green and started sweating profusely. Next, he bent over awkwardly to one side making it hard to follow his direction. He finally waved his arms in defeat, called a stop to the music and hurried off the platform. Everyone was so stunned, we didn’t know what to do. A minute later, his wife scurried back on stage and motioned for me. She said that Barry was on the way to the ER with a kidney stone. Would I mind finishing directing the Easter musical? I remember thinking, “C’mon Barry, what a pansy!” He wasn’t.
At 3:00am on January 16, 2009 (three hours into my 56th birthday) I awoke with a dull pain in my lower left back that felt like a muscle strain. The pain wasn’t severe, but it was annoying enough to keep me from going back to sleep. I finally got up at 5:00 as I do on Fridays to teach our Men’s Fraternity group at church. I made it through that with no real trouble. It was fortuitous that I had a regular appointment already scheduled with my urologist that morning, whom I shall lovingly refer to as Dr. Jekyll. When I described my symptoms, he suspected it was a stone and sent me to another location for a CT scan. Happy Birthday to me. The scan revealed that there was a fairly large stone (5mm) present. But it still wasn’t hurting too badly, and, hey, I’m a tough guy. Meanwhile, my kidney function was also below acceptable levels, so my urologist and primary doctor (who I will affectionately reference as Dr. Feelgood) discussed admitting me to the hospital. Happy Birthday to me.
They were ready to admit me, but when my daughter (who is a Dermatologist) weighed in with the fact that I wasn’t really hurting (because I’m so tough), they agreed to allow me to stay at home and just come in on Saturday for an outpatient blood test. They told me to drink LOTS of water, so I was obediently guzzling it by the gallon. After a good night’s rest on Friday, I had decided that this kidney stone deal was a piece of cake and, as I had suspected all along: Robert and Barry were wimps. I was wrong.
On Saturday afternoon, I suddenly went from feeling a dull pain in my back to scream-like-a-girl level of pain in a matter of minutes. Let me see if I can help you understand how to replicate what I felt that day. First, get an aluminum softball bat and have someone start tapping you on your lower back – gently at first like shiatsu massage. But increasing in force until your “masseuse” is swinging for the fences. Don’t stop there, however. While they are hitting you with the bat as hard as they can, drive a dull nail through the bat and keep hitting. Then, with the person still hitting you with the nail/bat, have someone stand in front of you and take a very sharp ice pick and start poking your bladder from the front. Both people must keep poking and swinging until you are certain that the nail and ice pick are meeting somewhere between your kidney and your bladder. Then it gets bad. The bat and the nail and the ice pick get bigger.
I’ve never taken much prescription pain medication, but I had an old prescription bottle of Percocet. I took one – no change after an hour. So, I took another one. I couldn’t tell that it helped at all, but, hey, I am a tough guy so I’m trying to tough this out. I spent most of Saturday night pacing from one side of my house to the other (which seemed to take my mind off the pain), bent over in pain, singing every praise song I know between groans and grimaces. I’d try lying down, but the pain was too bad, so I’d get up and walk again. Then it got worse.
By Sunday morning, I was in such pain that I was nauseated (a new experience for me), so I couldn’t even keep water down. My daughter and son-in-law (who is also a doctor) arrived at our house after church and realized that I needed to get to the hospital asap. My daughter called Dr. Feelgood and Dr. Jekyll and they agreed.
So, for the first time in my life, I was admitted to the hospital. But to be honest, I don’t remember much about it. I recall getting into the hospital bed and getting an IV in the back of my hand.
The nurse giving me 4cc’s of morphine said, “this should take away the pain.” It didn’t. The pain was still there causing me to double up and need to walk around. That’s when the wonderful Dr. Feelgood came in. He works with many hospice patients so he is somewhat of an expert on pain medication. When he saw the morphine wasn’t working, he ordered Diladid (I think that’s it). Almost immediately, the pain disappeared as I vanished down into a warm, fuzzy, rabbit hole. (That’s why I call him Dr. Feelgood) So finally the pain was gone, but the stone was still there.
On Monday, Dr. Jekyll decided to “go after that pesky stone.” Because of the location of the stone, lithotripsy (using sound waves to crush the stone) wasn’t an option. Before I went into surgery, they gave me more drugs, which induced conscious sedation. I don’t know what that means, but I’m sure that all I did was quote scripture verses. Right. Then they gave me general anesthesia, and Dr. Jekyll did his thing. I’m not going to offend your sensibilities by telling you how he went after that pesky stone, just know that it wasn’t pretty. He wasn’t able to extract it during surgery. I think he only made it mad. Have you ever tried to drag a cat out from under a bed when the cat doesn’t want to come out from under the bed? I imagine that’s what that stone was doing – backing up and hissing at the surgical instruments.
So the good Dr. Jekyll inserted a device forged from the depths of hell called a uretral stent inside the tiny tube that runs from my kidney to the bladder. The purpose of the stent was to dilate the ureter to allow the stone to exit. But the stent gave the stone a good run for the pain money! But the only time it hurt was when I breathed. Seriously, it hurt for a few days, and then felt better.
About a week ago, I was scheduled for another visit to Dr. Jekyll to go after the stone again. I had another CT scan performed before the visit to his office, and the scan revealed that THE STONE WAS GONE!
I had gotten emails and cards from friends quoting scripture saying, “this, too, shall pass.” Well, if I passed it, I wasn’t aware of it. Friends who’ve had kidney stones assure me that you KNOW when it passes. So I feel blessed that the stone is gone, and I’m feeling good again. I deeply apologize to Robert and Barry for thinking they were wimps, and I have a new found empathy for people who have kidney stones. I really do appreciate both Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Feelgood, and I have promised both of them that I will drink LOTS of water to prevent future stones. But, WHO MOVED THE STONE? Only God knows.
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