Slight change in plans in what I was going to write about tonight. A change to both the subject and the venue. Instead of writing about Trump and Empathy from my writing Starbucks, let’s talk about kidney stones from my garage.
I’ve talked about kidney stones before, but they’ve always been after the fact. Right now, as I’m writing this, I’ve got some intense pain in my lower back on the right side. It might not be a kidney stone, but it feels a lot like how all of the others have started. And over the last 17 years, I’ve become something of a subject matter expert.
Tonight, I’ve taken some precautions. I’ve contacted Melissa to warn her that I may be having a bad night. I came home from Starbucks as soon as I knew what was going on. I drank a bunch of water. I’ve taken an old Vicodin left over from a previous kidney stone. I’m staying ahead of the pain. I’m not nauseous yet. If the Vicodin is still good, and it takes effect before I get nauseous, I might not have to go to the E.R.
Kidney stones are terrible. They really, really are. And like I said, I’ve been through this quite a bit.
How many times have I altered my diet in order to avoid kidney stones? Too many. I gave up soda and caffeine. For a while, I was only drinking water for a beverage, even though water alone made me miserable.
Let’s talk about the pain a little bit, while I’m going through some of it.
It always starts off subtle. It doesn’t feel like anything more than bad gas at first. When I arrived at Starbucks tonight, I thought I might have sat in my chair wrong all day. There was a mild discomfort in my lower back, like a muscle cramp. I rubbed and stretched while I walked in and placed my order.
When I sat down, the pain ratcheted up a notch. On the pain scale, it went from a 1 to a 3. That’s when I started to get a suspicion that it wasn’t a muscle cramp or bad gas.
For me, the worst part about kidney stone pain is its merciless persistence. It’s never felt like a stab wound or anything so sharp. It feels more like pressure. The pressure escalates into a deep, low pain, and then it just sits there. It doesn’t decrease. It doesn’t subside, regardless of whatever position you put yourself in. Walking doesn’t help. Throwing up doesn’t help. Eventually, the body starts vomiting because it doesn’t know what else to do. The cold feel of the bathroom linoleum on your cheek doesn’t help, nor does the cold, smooth surface of the toilet bowl.
If you didn’t get the context clues, I’ve spent a lot of time in bathrooms while trying to deal with kidney stone pain.
The first stone, I didn’t know what was happening, and I fought it for hours. I resisted the torture. But eventually I broke and let Melissa take me to the hospital.
The second stone, I recognized it for what it was. I was at one of my son’s little league games. I was assistant coach, and I was out near third base. The pressure turned to pain fast. So fast, they had to help me off the field.
Tonight’s is the 6th or 7th stone. It’s hard for me to keep track, now. It started to hit hard, like the second stone had, but I think I got to the Vicodin in time. I’m still really uncomfortable, but the pain is at a manageable level. I don’t think I’ll need to prostrate myself before the toilet. Unless I’m misjudging what’s going on with my body right now, I think I’ll be okay tonight.
If I’m correct about this being a stone, this may be the second time I’ve gotten to the Vicodin in time. Most of the rest of the stones came on at very inconvenient times. One of them hit me while I was driving to work. I’d just hit rush hour traffic, and the highway was backed up worse than usual, and suddenly the pain was just there. I had a really hard time driving. I called ahead to work, and I called Melissa. By the time I got to work, I was drenched from both sweat and tears. David took me to the hospital and Melissa met me there.
A few people think that the stone hurts leaving the body. As in, they think it’s worse for men because of the penis being involved. The truth is, the urethra is the largest tube involved in the entire urination process. Once the stone reaches my bladder, I don’t notice it again. There’s no pain or discomfort from that point forward.
There’s something that happens during and after every kidney stone. I’m going through it right now. I keep asking myself, “What could I have done to prevent this? What did I do wrong?”
In a couple of cases, I might have brought the pain on myself because of my diet. Being a little dehydrated is bad for people susceptible to kidney stones, and when Cataclysm came out, I spent about three days straight playing World of Warcraft. I didn’t drink enough during that time. I’d been having fun at the time, but the kidney stone made it not worth it.
After the second stone, I thought it was because I’d been eating a bunch of shelled peanuts a day or two before. With the third stone, I’d had a handful of pistachios. With the first stone, I’d been pounding vitamin C in order to try and muscle my way through flu season.
The truth is, with the exception of the dehydration, there’s probably nothing I could have done differently to avoid these stones. After the last MRI, my doctor pointed out several stones floating in my kidneys, waiting for their time to shine. Some people just produce stones. I’m probably one of those people.
Writing about it right now is helping. Even after Vicodin, anything a person can do that is a constructive distraction is a good thing.
But unfortunately, I’m running out of things to say on this subject. I feel bad enough, because I know I’ve talked about kidney stones on this blog before. Much of what I had to say tonight is a repeat from previous entries, and I hate to repeat myself.
I’m sure I’ll use this experience in a story, eventually. Maybe I won’t make it specifically a kidney stone, though. Some kind of abdominal pain that the character has to struggle through, in order to accomplish some kind of task. Pain like this brings things into clarity for me. Reminds me of what is important. I’m sure it would help show the reader the true stuff that makes up one of my characters. It might be useful.