The day we got back to Florida from the cruise, I flew to St. Louis to celebrate my gma’s 89th bday. I love her a whole lot and am so very thankful for each passing year we get with her, so I have made it a priority the last several years to attend her birthday celebration. Or tell everyone I’m coming home so one can be arranged.
I was fine that first night and much of the next day, but by Saturday morning was bed-bound. We decided it was some residual motion sickness, as I had taken the patch off and went straight from the boat to a plane. I dined on applesauce at the family party Sunday at a place called Rib City. I love everything about having my gma’s family bday party at a place called Rib City. I don’t love feeling crappy in public when I want to be celebrating one of my favoritest people on the planet.
By the next day I was on another plane…headed back to LA. I magically started feeling better right before we landed. I decided it was either LA or the fact that my body was back in motion. I felt well enough for a sushi dinner with friends before re-packing and loading my car to drive to Austin the next day.
Now there are two different kinds of road trips. Road trips where the destination is the focus and road trips where the journey is the focus. I was on one of the former. And when doing a long-distance drive like that, I don’t mess around. I stop when I need gas. And at night when it’s suddenly only me and the truckers on the road and I start panicking about hitting deer.
I made it to Willcox, Arizona my first night. The next day (Wednesday), I made a fun stop at a the El Paso Saddleblanket because, well, the billboards made it seem amazing, and I decided I really wanted a pair of little turquoise earrings. After briefly crushing on the young Taco Bell guy in Fort Stockton, Texas (and asking Shannon if she thought he would take out his tongue ring if I asked him to), I stopped for the night to stay with friends in Fredericksburg, which is just outside of Austin. I had the time, and like hanging with friends.
The next day I drove into Austin, traded in my plagued Blackberry for an iPhone, and ran a few errands before meeting up with my friend Amber, who I’d be staying with for the first part of my SXSW experience.
Oh yeah, I was going to Austin to volunteer at SXSW. Sorry I didn’t mention that earlier.
So Amber and I meet up and hang out in her living room catching up. Before we know it, it’s dinner time and her hubs mentions Thai, which is exactly what we decide we wanted. Before we left for the restaurant, I got a sharp pang of cramps on my right side. I popped a couple of Tylenol hoping that would take care of whatever it was. Because it was Thai time! By the time I got to the restaurant, I was nauseous. And nervous. Sharp pain AND nauseousness?
I’d had that combo before. Instead of suffering in silence, I brought it up. Turned out they were familiar with kidney stones, but decided I didn’t look bad enough. At least not yet. We decided I should guzzle water to be on the safe side. So I did. And somewhere between the spring rolls arriving and my second glass of water, I knew something bad was going to happen.
(Warning: everything about this blog entry is not going to be pleasant, so here’s your chance to not read the rest of it.)
Amber’s hubs went to the bathroom and I looked at her and was like, I feel really sick, and she responded similarly to how I would with, “Do you have a plan?” And I was like, “I guess outside?” And then I calmly walked outside, and around the corner, and proceeded to projectile vomit (mostly water). Oh dear.
I knew then. It was too obvious. I was mad at my body. My last kidney stone episode was in 2004. I was very Nancy Kerrigan about it. Why here? Why now? And what the hell was I going to do? I waited outside and Amber came out to check on me and I filled her in, so we took our dinner to go.
We got back to the house and I called my mom because that’s what you do when you feel like you’re going to die and you’re puking up things you’re pretty sure you ate/drank two days ago.
She confirmed my diagnosis over the phone (because that’s what moms do). We decided I would try to flush it out myself. More water. I could do this. Thirty minutes later. I couldn’t do it. I had been through it twice before, both times ended in the ER. This time would be no different. They like to compare the pain to childbirth. I like the idea of natural childbirth until I question which part is like kidney stone pain. Because if that’s the WORST it gets, then I guess I’ve been there and can go there again. But if it gets WORSE than that, I’m not sure my pain tolerance or sanity can handle it.
God love my friend Amber who went above and beyond that night. She took me to the hospital and patiently waited in the ER waiting room. That waiting room was my own private hell. I’ve never felt more miserable. So much pain. So much puking. And while I didn’t know what ailments everyone in front of me in line was suffering, I felt like there was no way they could feel as bad as I did. I mean, did they lay on the bathroom floor in the fetal position because they were unable to venture very far from the toilet or possibly be comfortable in any position? No they didn’t, because I was laying there and I would have seen them.
(Not my proudest moment, but I allowed myself the luxury of the cool tile on my cheek. No matter how filthy/disgusting I’m sure it was.)
Like I said, this has happened twice before. But the new experience in this scenario was that I was in a hospital in a city where I didn’t live. And once I was called back to the ER, I didn’t see a familiar face until two days later when Amber came to pick me up. (They had offered to bring me up anything I needed/wanted but I had declined.)
That first night was a mess of different drug combos and lots of fluids. My doctor and nurse were both super nice. A CT scan proved me right with the whole kidney stone diagnosis. But we couldn’t find a drug medley that took enough of the pain away that my stomach would tolerate. About 12 hours in, we landed on a Dilaudid-antinausea-Benadryl trifecta. They gave me three liters of fluid intravenously. Nothing was coming out. By morning I was still hurting. Still puking. In basically the same condition I had come in. The stone was stuck and starting to cause more problems.
So they brought in a urologist, who I met at 9 and had me in the operating room by 10:30. BB doesn’t mess around! (I forget his name, but the OR made him autograph my lower back and he did it in Sharpie, so it’s just now fading.)
The fun part, if there was one, was that I WAS on drugs. Lots of them. So between the pain and the puking I still found it necessary to entertain people with my wittiness. I mean, this was going to be as miserable as I made it.
As they were wheeling me to the OR from the VIP room they had moved me to from the ER (the hosp was super booked, so I’m guessing this was the only room available) they asked me about body piercings. We took out my earrings and I was like, that’s it! Then they did a sweeping pass over my body asking me again and I remembered that I had my belly button pierced.
So I took my belly button ring out in transit. And that’s the last time I ever saw it. All of it, that is. They put it and my earrings into a cup, and when I opened it a couple days later part of the belly ring was missing. Oh well. It’s been almost 12 years. It was probably time. That being said, it’s like a phantom limb or something now. I never realized how much attention I randomly paid to it. Fidgeting with fingers and such. Still getting used to it.
Before going under, they were like, “Is there anyone you want us to call?” And I was all, “Only if I don’t wake up.”
I got out of surgery really itchy, and annoyed by the oxygen thing (both the mask then the tubes up my nose), but otherwise fine. Unfortunately the recovery nurse was the least kind. At one point I asked her to scratch my back. (I was really itchy!) And she was like, “I won’t do that.” The anesthesia made me cry about it. She didn’t care. Luckily they soon moved me back to my VIP room where my nurse was much nicer. The goal was to eat something, pee a little and leave by 3p. I was loopy, but onboard.
(If you’re still reading and not my parents or siblings, the rest of this is all way tmi. I survived, I’m not even sure why I feel the need to keep writing about it.)
Long story short, no pee happened. I tried for six hours. I drank lots of fluids. They brought in a ultrasound-like machine to confirm I had a full bladder. I’m going to blame the drugs for the fact that I cried on the toilet because I couldn’t pee, but it happened. And I knew what that meant.
Something that rhymes with patheter.
I have a tendency for empathy, even when it comes to my body parts. My poor urethra had been through enough. Why was my body so against doing what it was made to do?
Other gross things were happening. They kept telling me to not look at the bag. I knew enough to know what it looked like. I was super lucky as shifts changed and the next nurses and techs were just as nice as the last ones.
I emailed my SXSW coordinators to inform them I was going to miss my first shift. And then my second. My nurses sympathized and pointed out that it was cold and rainy outside and that the festival was probably really yucky right now anyway. (Something my future volunteer cohorts would confirm.)
My overnight tech was a guy, and although I knew it was his job, I felt weird about him doing things “down there.” At one point he was helping me and my accoutrement roll over. I had a pillow between my knees and as I struggled with it and he tried to help, I was all like, “I don’t have anything on!” And he was like, “I’m a medical professional.” And I was like, “I know, I’m sorry.”
Fast forward to the next day when the worst thing happened and the next tech who I was VERY attracted to had to basically re-dress me WHILE I SAT ON THE TOILET. I’ll spare the details of that experience except to say that I looked at him at one point and said, “This is me at my worst.” And he replied, “I’ve seen much worse” and then discreetly helped me change.
Calling out to him and having him help me was perhaps one of my most humbling moments I’ve ever had. Oh life lessons. You pick some fun experiences.
Long story short, way too late. I peed. And got to go home. And everything was well and good until Tuesday, when I had to take the stent out.
I had opted to do it myself to avoid more medical bills and because I had no idea what I was agreeing to. The night before I had to do it, I made the mistake of looking it up online. To say it was gnarly is an understatement. I felt like a clown with a scarf or one of the girls in the ping pong show. It was insane. I freaking pulled something out of my kidney! I still can’t believe it. My mom’s response? “You can do anything now!” (As long as I’m on vicodin.)
And hopefully I won’t have to. I kept saying I was worried about why my strength was being tested/proven to me. I don’t want this to be preparation for anything.
I had a few spasms that afternoon as my body readjusted to doing things without plastic tubing and have been ok since. Trying to drink more and I definitely made more frequent stops on the road trip home.
Fingers crossed that’s it for kidney stones for a while. I have a couple more currently in my kidney, but according to a high school friend who is now a urologist in Portland, those are tiny and nothing to worry about. PS Having a high school friend who is now a urologist comes in really handy in a situation like this. He’s definitely been my email-a-friend and I even sent him my CT scan for a second opinion.
I’m so very lucky to have such great friends. I think the fact I was on so many drugs helped me feel like I wasn’t alone. And I texted with people and people called and I don’t really remember a lot of things. Everything was so gross that I’m glad there was nobody I know there to see it. I’d obviously prefer describing it instead. Ha!
So RIP my belly ring and Baby Stone Phillips. I never got to see you, but you sure caused a lot of trouble.
Ok, I promise that unless something bad happens this will be the last medically-related blog entry.