Monday, 11 February 2008

The vanishing stone

Some weeks ago I went to see a consultant about my kidney stone, which, as long-term readers with memories for dull trivia may recall, was troubling me back in the Summer. It was not a long consultation, lasting about 200 seconds in total. A large proportion of that time was spent listening to the consultant cough violently - he was, by some margin, the sickest looking man I ever met; sick enough that when I first walked in I was convinced he was another patient and that I had accidentally wandered into the wrong room. His was clearly a smokers cough - he had the greying yellow skin of a dedicated 60-a-day man, which was faintly disturbing: with all the medical information they have access to, you kind of don't ever expect to meet a Doctor that smokes. I imagined him outside the hospital entrance each morning, defiantly sucking on three Benson & Hedges at once, giving the stinkeye to each of his colleagues as they walked past shaking their heads and tutting...
Far more disturbing, however, was his necktie: it had Bugs Bunny on it. There is a place in this world for novelty ties featuring cartoon characters, but in my opinion that place is not around the neck of a man who can decide to have you cut open. It just doesn't seem right.
Not that it came to that. During my consultation he basically hacked and choked a greeting, studied my ultrasound scan results (coating them in light sheen of phlegm as he did so) and then declared that I needed a CAT scan. In and out in less that three and half minutes because the tests I needed hadn't been done yet. I would have been angrier about this outcome, and also the four months wait to get an appointment just to hear this news, were it not for the fact that I was simply grateful that he didn't drop dead in front of me...
So: A CAT scan was required, which happened last week, and as someone with a lifelong interest in imaging I am slightly ashamed to say that my inner geek was quite excited about this. Sadly the whole experience proved to be both mundane and quite undignified: I was asked to lie on a narrow bed that had been covered in a roll of blue paper, then the nurse covered me with a sheet and asked me to loosen my belt and pull my trousers down.
"The machine will tell you what to do next.." she said, which sounded all 'sci-fi' and ominous, but disappointingly turned out be a 'Wizard of Oz' style sham as it was just her voice relayed through a speaker in front of me. The machine whirled up into life, the gurney I was on was dragged in and out of the giant metal donut a few times, and then it all stopped.
"Have you had any pain lately?" asked the nurse/CAT scan machine
"No."
"Hmmmm. We'll go again."
Giant metal donut. Whirring. In, out.
"Hmmm. OK, you can pull your trousers up".
I scrambled about under the sheet. It is surprisingly hard to pull your trousers up while lying down on a bed of wadded tissue paper. The nurse came back in.
"It's gone" she announced.
"What has?"
"Your kidney stone. Not there any more." I thought I detected a faintly accusatory tone, as if I had somehow been wasting her time with my boring sediment-free renal system. I gaped stupidly.
"Where has it gone, then?" I asked
"I can't see it at all. So it either broke up into pieces, and you passed them..."
"I don't think so..."
"...yes, that's very unlikley, as it's excruciatingly painful - or it has slipped into your bladder. That's the most likely explanation."
I was not sure how to take this. A missing kidney stone sounded like good news, on the face of it - but I didn't like the idea of anything 'slipping into my bladder'...
"What will it do in my bladder?" I asked.
"Oh, nothing. Just roll around harmlessly" she said breezily.
It must have been clear from my face that I found this concept disturbing rather than comforting.
"It's fine. Most people have them" she said. "I've seen some bladders that have been full of them, like gravel" she went on, somewhat unnecessarily.
"Sounds like good times..." I muttered, bleakly imaging my own bladder filling up with silt and then requiring some painful dredging procedure.
"Off you go. You don't need any treatment."
I stumbled off toward the door. Sadly I had managed to tuck the blue tissue paper into my trousers while pulling them up, so as I left I dragged half the whole roll off of the gurney and across the floor with me, like the worlds most downmarket bridal train. She deftly yanked it out of the back of my trousers as I passed her, while a little piece of my soul died of sheer embarrasment.
"Ha, quite a lot of people do that" she said, cheerfully.

So, there we go: the all clear. The Stone is gone, happily without the need for any kind of surgery or need to 'pass' anything. Two kidneys, no waiting. Now if only I could stop lying awake at night, imagining a lump the size of a penny rolling around in my bladder, all would be well......

2 comments:

misterimpatient said...

Very timely.

Back on December 17th, my daughter hurt her right foot in gym. Another student collided with her, stepped on her foot, and severally injured her. A call from the school nurse awoke me at my desk and off I went to take her to the emergency room for an x-ray. We had a short wait, and then we were rolled into one of their many private ER rooms, complete with your own personal TV with excellent cable. We watched a large part of 50 First Dates (great movie IMHO) while nurses and doctors came and went. Finally she was rolled away for her x-ray. I stayed behind and watched the movie. Some time later a nice doctor came in and told us there was no break but her ankle was very badly sprained. Fine. A pair of crutches and a kick on the butt and out we go.

Time passes and the pain persists. Late January we get more x-rays via her primary care doctor. No break but other funny looking stuff. Go see an orthopedist.

Nice old man orthopedist looks at the other x-rays and thinks they suck so he takes more x-rays and doesn't see anything on them but because the pain persists, he sends her for an MRI. BTW, getting appointments is pretty easy. The MRI was done two days later and could have been the same day if we wanted to do it at 9pm.

The result of the MRI is...wait for it....broken foot. So she's been walking around on a broken foot for 6 week or more.

The lesson for me is don't waste time on low-tech. Go for the full techno-monty and be done with it. There are other examples but I've wasted enough of your time already.

Anonymous said...

Once upon a time (actually 3 times, but who's counting) I had the oh-so-distinct pleasure of experiencing a kidney stone. Being somewhat of a fool, on the 3rd such time I correctly and quietly self-diagnosed my condition of having a kidney stone during a meeting at work. I left work and attempted to drive myself to my Dr's office. As I got closer to the Dr's office, I was sure I was going to die. The pain began to build to excruciating levels, taking me dangerously to the point of nearly passing out.

When I arrived, I proudly announced my diagnosis, somehow expecting that if I were to hold out my hand they would fill it with a bottle of pain killers and give me a pat on the back. Instead I was told to stand in line to get a "sample" and confirmation of my diagnosis. Of course this was after asking a series of questions that to me seemd to be completely pointless, given that I had correctly diagnosed my own condition. I just know they were planning to take credit for my diagnosis.

As I waited in line to give my sample, I nearly passed out. I felth that I had but moments to live. After what must have been 20 or 30 minutes with me writhing in the most intense pain of my life, I finally insisted that they could either take the sample now or they could swab a sample from the floor after they removed of my lifeless body. It turns out that they had somehow forgotten to call my name, and dozens of other people went in front of me.

The sample quickly confirmed my diagnosis, but at that point it no longer mattered. It wasn't my diagnosis any more. The nurse almost acted surprised that I could have known what was wrong. She asked if I had driven myself to the office, and said that it was too bad I didn't have a ride or she could give me a shot of narcotics to kill the pain. I quickly assured her that I could get a ride home and begged for a shot.

She actually asked if I wanted to change into a gown to be more comfortable, but I opted to just pull down my trousers in the middle of the office to get a shot in my backsides.

The only thing worse than having a kidney stone is actually passing the stone. It's the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced. It has been said that some women would rather have a baby than a kidney stone.