My Battle with a 3-Point Stag (Part 1)

by on Nov.13, 2010, under health

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I was afflicted with a sizable kidney stone – over an inch in diameter with 3 horns protruding to be precise.  Well a week before yesterday I went under the knife to have it removed and have spent the following week recovering (both from the initial surgery and the various follow-up procedures).  I had figured that this post would come much sooner after the initial ordeal with follow-up posts throughout the week.  How I managed to avoid even touching a computer in that time I have no idea.  But I’m back in the saddle now, so I will now regale you with my account of my percutaneous nephrolithotripsy:


7:30 AM:  I’m supposed to be at the hospital already to check in for my procedure, but due to the process of dragging the kids out of bed and over to the in-laws and the unexpected traffic volume 1 1/2 hours before rush hour, we are still in the car.  My wife, who perceives lateness as the penultimate sin, is verging on a conniption.  I, meanwhile, am secretly contemplating my own mortality and playing out the worst-case scenarios in my head.  I know better that the likelihood of any serious complications is between negligible and non-existent, but I can’t help but consider the possibility that the goodbyes I gave the kids that morning were the last they’d hear.  Knowing my wife’s anxiety-management capacity, I have managed not to let on an iota of this concern.  After all, I know better (or so I keep telling myself).

9:00 AM:  I’m now checked in and waiting in a bed in what is ironically one of the least comfortable hospital gowns I’ve ever experienced.  The irony is the fact that it is actually a very high-tech gown composed of various absorption pads and containing numerous ports to which a set of hoses can connect in order to perfectly aerate and temperature-regulate the wearer.  But without the hoses actually connected, the garb simply continuously reflected my body heat at me causing me to sweat heavily and stick to it.  It at least made for a semi-interesting conversation topic to have with my wife and my sister-in-law who were my pre-surgical company.  Once they come to cart me off to interventional radiology, I feel somewhat like I’m in one of those medical dramas with the camera angle at the patient’s perspective as they are wheeling him around (only if it where medical drama footage, it would be pretty boring footage).

9:30 AM:  I’m now lying on my stomach on an impressive piece of radiology equipment (seemingly a highly agile ultra-sound/x-ray machine), slowly drifting into conscious sedation while watching penguins on a 60-inch flat screen and listening to modern rock on internet radio broadcast in surround sound. As they prepared to start things up, I played name that tune with the cute, young  – I mean professional and capable P.A.s and technicians.  I was doing pretty well until they started stabbing me in the back – literally.  I didn’t precisely feel pain as they pushed a guide wire and then a wider tube through my back, between my ribs, avoiding my spleen, lung and large intestine to eventually end in my left kidney, but I felt a lot of pressure and discomfort that amounted in me nearly being sick.  I vaguely recall that they chose conscious sedation so that I could follow breathing instructions during certain steps of the procedure, but if I had it to do again, I’d say put me out and manage my breath for me if necessary.

10:?? AM:  After a difficult transition back to a gurney, I have to wait back in the first room for my Urologist to be ready in the OR to perform the surgery.  For that, they put me under …

?:?? PM:  I wake up in a recovery room waiting to be moved to the room I’ll be staying in for the night.  They tell me the procedure went exceptionally well, but I’m still a bit too groggy to fully take in the information.  A while later they wheel me to my room and my wife is there waiting.  They carefully transfer me into the bed – a task I am in no position to assist with – as my wife apologizes for not coming back to the first room between the radiology procedure and my surgery as they didn’t know I was back there.  I personally would barely have remembered if she did make it back in that stretch and was not really in any position to care about who was where.  She stayed with me through a few visits from the doctor, the nurse, and the patience technician as well as through my dinner of clear liquids before calling it a night and going home to attend to the rest of the family.  I attempt to watch some TV, but my head is not in it so I take a nap.

DAY 2:

6:00 AM:  After a fitful night’s sleep trying to move as little as possible while also trying not to be uncomfortable from not moving at all, I’m awoken in order to have things checked out.  I do my best to roll over so they can change the dressing and bed pad as well as listen to my breathing.  It is surprising how hard it can be to roll 75 degrees in a posable bed between the pain itself and the pain meds that kept me from being all that mobile.  After that I settled in until the doctor came by later in the morning to recheck my back, re-redress the wound, and sign off on removing the catheter some time that morning.  Once that was done, I went back to sleep for what time I had left to be comfortably still.

10:00 AM:  After some more clear liquids for breakfast, the nurse finally came by to remove my catheter.  It was a bittersweet moment – while I generally prefer nothing be inserted into said orifice if at all avoidable, it was already there and saving me the hassle of going anywhere to handle such needs.  But out it came and in its place I got a nifty urinal jug to fill as I saw fit.  Thus far I had gone through at least 2 bags of IV fluids and filled the two bags attached to me with nearly the same amount of fluid.  So with both the catheter out and the IV off and little to speak of coursing through my digestive system, I was doubtful I’d have much with which to fill the jug.

11:00 AM:  I finally manage to get myself out of bed – it seemed that getting in a sitting position was the worst of it.  Once I was upright, moving around was pretty manageable.  That said, I decided to camp out in the chair next to the bed and take another nap.

2:00 PM:  After a half-eaten solid lunch and several trips to the bathroom, I still haven’t produced anything for the jug.  The bag attached to the hole in my back, however, was filling up nicely.  So much for the direct route.  My wife had come back and was worried that there was something wrong and I’d have to get the catheter back in and stay longer (the latter I could live with, the former not so much).  Eventually they decided that my not peeing was just due to the limited production so far and the amount that went out the bag accounted for most of it.  So they let me go home (though my wife had serious hesitations about it).

10:00 PM:  After making it home and settling in with the family and managing not to get jumped on or tackled for the duration of the afternoon and evening, I called it a day myself.  In order to avoid potential of added injury, my daughter agreed to let me sleep in her bed as long as I needed to (we live in a twin and my bedroom is on the third floor up a windy, narrow staircase).  So I traded my smaller leg-strap kidney bag for a bigger bag to hang by the bed and turned in for the night (what better way to sleep).

[To be continued …]

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