The Kidney Stone

Funny how something so small could grow into such a big pain . . . in the kidney. I’m talking about stones of course. Specifically the granola crunch-like chunk in my left kidney that’s caused me five years of intermittent agony. Pain enough to finally convince me it was time to get the damn thing removed before it ended up clogging my innards any further.

Five years ago when I suffered my first kidney stone attack I didn’t feel that way. Oh sure it burned like the fires of hell as it went down but I was young and stupid. And the little itty bitty stone was an aberation. A once in a lifetime kinda thing. No way was pain like that gonna come my way again. What were the chances? Slim to none I thought . . . until I felt the familiar dull ache slowly gaining intensity as it worked its way down my side again this past October. A quick emergency visit to the hospital and a little morphine masked the pain but this time xrays showed the little pebble had grown to over two centimeters and spawned a few kids as well.


After consulting with a kidney specialist, it turns out my options were pretty limited:

  • Do nothing and wait for the little ticking time bombs to make their next visit.
  • Break up the little suckers with some ultrasonic vibration treatment and wait for the stones to painfully pass through my urinary tract over the next few months.
  • Stick a catheter up my penis, break them up and pull them out.
  • Or stick a straw through my back to the kidney and break them up and pull them out from there.

None of the surgical options appealed to me in the aftermath of my second attack. Soon thereafter my natural philosophy of leave well enough alone started to settle in again. Lightning wouldn’t strike three times would it? One attack every five years or so didn’t seem too bad. But this time nagging pains persisted over the next few months. A sleepless night in December where every position only aggravated me further. A day at work where I couldn’t concentrate on my tasks at hand. Worry before every ice hockey game that a body check tonight would shift the stones into action.

Ouch. Enough was enough. The stones would have to go.

So I opted for option four and aimed to book the surgery for mid April neatly wedged in between the close of hockey season and the onset of spring volleyball. No need to inconvenience my sporting activities any more than necessary I figured. A cancellation got me a surgery date on April Fools. No joke. And that turned out to be a stroke of good luck as a worldwide SARS scare began causing elective surgery cancellations the following day.

I had snuck in just under the wire. Lucky me. Right?

With my better half Fiona in tow, we arrived at the Ottawa General Hospital right on time for my 11:15 AM admittance appointment. After confirming I was here for triple heart bypass surgery, it was April Fools after all, I was soon showing off my ass through a skimpy purple hospital dressing gown and flirting with the nurses much to Fiona’s chagrin. Who knew I had such beautiful blue veins?

All joking aside, my anxiety did begin to grow as my 1:15 surgery slot drew closer. Despite this being a very routine procedure, one can’t help but wonder how things might go wrong. What if they popped open the wrong kidney? Snipped something they shouldn’t? Removed my brain? It could happen you know. This was surgery after all. Not rock, scissors, paper. With 15 minutes to go, Dr. Watterson, the kidney specialist performing my surgery came by to push my operation back another hour. Equipment problems and complications elsewhere he said. Great I thought to myself. He’s just finished an operation and discovered he’s short some scissors. Now he has to go back in and get them. Oh well, better someone else than me. Two hours later I was finally wheeled by a porter to the operating room with a big black x marked on my left kidney to help the surgical staff out. Can’t say I remember much of the procedure. Other than Sarah, Becky and Portia sponging me down as I drifted off to sleep under the anesthesia.

I awoke two hours later in the recovery room to Fiona’s smiling face. An aching pain in my side. One catheter in my back and second one ballooned up in my penis. Fuck. I don’t remember signing off on that. That hurt more than the hole in my back. And reminded me of the Simpson’s episode where Ralphie complains “It burns when I pee.” Cause it did. Weird feeling not having control of your bowels and watching blood drip out of a tube in your back into a waiting sack.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the late operation meant I had missed supper hour. That meant I wouldn’t be eating until eight the next morning a total of almost 30 hours since my last meal. Sigh. I settled in for a long, uncomfortable and hungry night. It wasn’t until breakfast was served the next morning that I realized how incredibly lucky I had been to miss dinner. Turns out all those urban myths about gross hospital food aren’t stories after all. They’re the truth. Hospital food really does deserve its god awful reputation. No amount of brown sugar could have saved those rolled oats. Lumpy, tasteless and with the consistency of vomit, I can’t believe I actually tried a few bites. And they weren’t even the worst item on the tray. That distinction belonged to the sawdust masquarading as scrambled eggs. I should know. I forced a few bites of those down my throat too. Shows you how hungry I must have been. And how bad the food was that I left it on the tray.

As the day wore on though, the food and penis catheter became less an issue and the six-inch long straw-like tube draining my kidney through my back became the more painful problem. I had that friggin tube in my back for three nights and couldn’t make a single move in bed without feeling it. Even a task as simple as rolling over from my back to my stomach was an ordeal. Sitting up. Forget it. Reaching for a cup of water. No way. And walking. That was the worst. The nurses were always on my case to go for a little jaunt to get the blood pumping. Kinda hard to do when it meant I had to sit up and get my feet on the floor first. The things I do to please the women. That was 50 steps of throbbing torture.

As a result, there was nothing I looked forward to with greater anticipation than the Friday morning tube removal. Allelujah. Now that was gonna be relief. Rolaids could take some lessons. The process was quick and painless. Pulling the bandages off my back hurt more than slipping out the red tube. Even the alcohol rub to clean the area didn’t make me wince. With the tube gone, fresh new bandages applied and no new leakage even though it was expected by the doctors, I felt pretty good. So I went for a walk without any prodding thinking a noon discharge was upcoming after the doctors came by to check out how the hole in my back was healing up.


At 10 I felt that familiar pain in my left kidney. Sharp and insistent. And getting stronger fast. I buzzed the nurse for a Tylenol. But moments after she gave me one I was squeezing the buzzer again knowing I was gonna need a bigger hit of something fast. Sure enough, the banshee wailing started soon after. I tried shallow short breaths. I tried deeper ones. I tried thinking pleasant thoughts. I tried clearing my mind of all thoughts. (Normally not a difficult task.) Nothing worked. So I started on swearing. At the nurse for not getting back fast enough with a dose of something to ease the pain. At my folks for having given birth to a deformed kidney boy. At Moira Kelly for not having slept with me. Five minutes later the nurse was back with a shot of morphine and she got no whining from me about the size of the needle. Problem was though, it wasn’t enough and some hospital admin bozo had set limits on dosage and frequency. Long story short: I wasn’t gonna be getting any more for another 15 minutes. I could write Fuck for the next 15 minutes in ever larger fonts to tell you how much my side hurt but that wouldn’t do the pain justice. All I could do was wait it out until it passed. And over the next half hour the morphine started kicking in and the pain finally began to subside.

A cabal of doctors came by within an hour and wisely stood behind the range of my fists. Not that I was really mad at them. I wasn’t gonna be sending them any Christmas cards seeing as how some tiny stone particle had managed to evade them during surgery but it wasn’t their fault my left kidney has always had a birth defect. A shrivelling of the tube leading down to the urinary tract and an odd high placement which meant the kidney did not drain as efficiently as it should. No, I blame my parents for that. From what the doctors tell me, that deformity is what caused the kidney stones in the first place. And now, now that the tube in my back had been removed and the kidney was being asked to work again, some small last remnants of the stones had decided to give me one final ride before I was discharged.

Ha ha little stone. I’m not laughing. Die. Die. Die. And never come back again.

Pretty please.

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