My urologist has told me that the passing of each kidney stone is a unique experience and I couldn’t agree more. I’ve had three stones pass so far, as I’ll detail in the following paragraphs. Women have said that it’s the closest that a man will come to experience childbirth, but honestly, if that was the case, we would all have at most one child and the human race would no longer exist. Of course a kidney stone is not as cute and loveable as a baby, so maybe part of my skepticism is based on the lack of a longer-term benefit. Or maybe I’m just a wuss with a low pain tolerance, but in any case, here goes.
The first stone made its appearance back in the late 1980’s while I was working at The Mead Corporation. The morning started with the usual alarm clock, shower, shave and donning of the traditional suit and tie. I walked out the front door of my house, turned to lock it and thought to myself “something just happened”. I stood at the door for a few moments, determined that I couldn’t put a finger on the source of that feeling, locked the door and drove to work. During that twenty minute commute things started going wrong, and by the time I parked at my normal spot on Riverview Avenue, my suit was soaked and I felt terrible. I stood by my car for a few minutes, started feeling better and made the ten minute walk to my office. Within a half-hour I was in more pain than I’ve ever experienced, without a clue to its cause or even a particular body part that was suffering. My colleagues took me to a room to lie down then quickly decided to drive me to Miami Valley Hospital. I spent the next two hours in pain, alternately burning hot and freezing cold, whatever pain medication I was given having no discernible effect. I was relieved when the diagnosis of a kidney stone was made, at least knowing I wasn’t likely to die that day. The doctor decided to give the stone some more time to see if it would pass on its own before deciding on surgery to remove it or shock waves to break it into smaller pieces. An hour or so later I remember the exact moment the stone passed into my bladder. My body temperature shot back to normal and the pain was totally gone. I felt fine and figured I would just go back to work, but they insisted I go home and rest. The final task was to capture the stone as it exited, which took about two days and resulted in a smooth stone no larger than a tomato seed. So much pain caused by such a little object.
Having one stone is not a guarantee of having another, but it’s always in the back of your mind. Is today the day? After about twenty years had passed, I figured, and hoped, I had a “one and done”, however stone number two was not to be denied. This one started with some unusual back pain on a Friday, but eased by Saturday morning, which was appreciated since my wife and I were making the two hour drive to Muncie, Indiana so we could drive a second car back home. By the time we got to Muncie I was not feeling well and passed on eating lunch. Shortly after, the pain hit full force and I knew stone number two was trying to work its way down. My wife drove me home as I laid down across the back seats, feeling each and every bump for two solid hours. We made it home and knowing it was likely just a few hours before the stone reached my bladder and the pain would stop, I tried to tough it out, but it eventually got too much to bear and my wife drove me to Kettering Medical Center. I remember sitting in a chair, bent over and miserable, waiting to be admitted, which seemed to take forever. Like before I was given pain meds, but this time they seemed to help quite a bit and the pain gradually faded away over a couple hour period, no sudden moment of relief. Two weeks later, I passed a nasty-looking, jagged, peppercorn-sized stone, so very different from the first.
The third stone repeated the theme of being a unique experience. My doctor had taken follow-up x-rays after the second stone and saw what could be another stone developing in one of my kidneys. He told me it might elect to stay put and never detach or eventually follow its brothers and make its way down and out. About five years after stone number two I had my answer. In the middle of the night, during one of my normal “wake up, relieve and fall back asleep” cycles, sitting half awake on the throne, I snapped fully awake when the familiar, abrupt, stream stoppage occurred. But in that split-second, my mind was really confused as I wasn’t expecting a stone, not having any pain or other symptoms like the first two events. But sure enough, bloop, a stone popped out, this one not quite the size of number two, but still large enough, and it was quite the relief to know I had skated past hours of pain and a trip to the hospital.
All I can figure, and fervently hope, is that I’m getting better at “birthing” these kidney stones, but since each one is different, who knows what a potential fourth experience may be like. I hope to never know.